UrbanToronto's Dumitru Onceanu wraps up his five-part survey of Vancouverism - showcasing much of what has been built over the last decade in that city - and asks us to consider what Toronto might learn from Canada's western metropolis.
Great design isn't just sky-high. The measure of a city and the success of its buildings is primarily observed at street level. In this our final part of the series, we take to the streets to give you an overview of Vancouver's pedestrian experience of design.
Podiums and street level townhomes
Throughout this series we have had the opportunity to showcase podiums related to the developments of Concord Pacific, as well as those designed by James Cheng, such as the Residences on Georgia, Shaw Centre, Shangri-La, and Fairmont Pacific Rim. Today we present a few more examples of podiums/townhomes of the downtown area.
This podium lines the base of the Melville condo tower which fronts onto two streets. The basic cladding material is glass and grey spandrel. Layered in front of each window wall section are a series of thick 'Y' shaped solid wood pillars, the top half of which are covered in wood louvers suspended underneath an oversized soffit of dark brown aluminum panels which extend the podium's roofline. The pillars marry the BC's trees with Vancouver's buildings.
This podium sits on the Coal Harbour waterfront bikeway/walkway, and is comprised of first floor retail spaces underneath two floors of residential, primarily clad in grey aluminum panels, with a first floor glass canopy overhanging the retail front doors.
The following four podiums for Carina, and One, Two, and Three Harbour Green Place, show the great variety of looks all within the modernist vernacular residential architecture on offer in the city.
This podium of The Ritz Coal Harbour at the corner of West Pender and Bute Streets is three storeys of outward angled glass, framed on either side by two walls of red panelling, and topped with green roof vegetation which is beginning to overhang the roofline. The majority of the West Pender Street retail façade is occupied by a Shoppers Drug Mart.
This is the six-storey podium of the West Pender Place complex. The whole podium façade angles outward slightly over the public sidewalk as it rises, while the first floor is as-yet unoccupied retail space as the building nears completion.
The sidewalk in front of West Pender Place is an example of how the City likes to visually separate pedestrian from vehicular spaces with the use of a long curb-side grass strip. This sidewalk treatment is in evidence in other nearby areas as well.
The following two images are of the lower portions of the W-43 tower at the Woodwards redevelopment project. The tower's structural pillars at street level are clad in either a marble or stone, and the rest of the tower is predominantly clad in window wall. Attached to the balcony edges and rising from the second storey are these artistic metal panels which give this building a level of detail beyond the ordinary. In some places you can see green vegetation poking through the panels' perforated surface. Are the panels intended to be a framework upon which green ivy will climb skywards along the side of the entire building?
Landscaping featuring water
Water features prominently in many of the landscaping treatments of recent developments. So prominent are they in fact that you can't walk more than a block in many places before coming across another one. Here is just a small sample of the huge number of water features on view.
In Part 1, we also profiled this Concord Pacific project which made use of a large leaf-shaped pool.
Public art features prominently in and around new developments, sometimes also in conjunction with their water features. The following is, again, just a small sampling.
This lego-like interpretation of a killer whale sits in the public square of the new Convention Centre, and also features mini white LED lights inset at the corner of the blocks which create a sparkle effect when lit up at night.
This rotating, backlit globe sits suspended in the atrium of the new Convention Centre, spinning ever so slowly and capturing the attention of passerby.
This long, narrow teardrop-shaped metal form sits in a corner of the public walkway on the waterfront side of the new Convention Centre. It is across from Canada Place and its fabric 'sails' which are lit up with a constantly changing lighting scheme.
The public art contribution at the Shangri-La, in collaboration with the Vancouver Art Gallery. More information and images can be found in Part 3 where it was originally featured.
Lighting is also used at night to highlight a building's dominant features. In the following two images, we see the corner lighting of the Shaw Centre, giving us a preview of what we might expect to see when our own Trump Tower lights up it's north-west corner and spire.
The following image shows the oval-shaped rooftops of the Harbourside Park towers highlighted in the night sky with a very simple ring of light.
The street-side concrete façades of the newly completed West Pender Place towers feature horizontal strips of dynamically changing multi-coloured LED lighting.
Bike lanes and their supporting infrastructure
Vancouver's system of bikeways are integrated both into its street infrastructure, as well as with their public waterfront spaces. In the following two images, you can see the difference in paving treatments between the bikeway and walkway on two sides of the new Convention Centre building. In both images you can also see the first floor retail spaces fronting onto the public walkway.
Special paving treatment for the bikeway also contains cycling imprints to remind everyone that this space is primarily a cycling lane.
A view of the two-way cycling lanes weaving up the west side of Burrard Street away from the Convention Centre. All bike lanes that I came across were dual-laned spaces on one side of the street, separated by ordinary curbs or green planters.
Cycling lanes are also separately signalled from regular vehicular traffic.
Streets containing cycling lanes are prominently marked on overhead street signs.
On many cycling lanes, one will find parking stalls like this one which are located near main intersections, and which also have space to park motorbikes.
Many lanes are separated by wide, knee-high planters, adding a both a measure of safety and a touch of green to the roadway.
In a few locations, bike lanes are either combined with or bordered by bus stops, reminiscent of our recently completed combination bike lane/transit curb system on Roncesvalles.
A number of new developments are getting behind the green roof trend, notably the low-lying and highly visible green roof of the new Convention Centre building. This roof has a sloping side towards the water and a series of walkways leading up towards the public space above.
The older Pacific Centre building has a rather mature green roof foliage, much of which significantly overhangs the roofline.
This building at 1919 Beach Avenue makes a very strong statement with a large, two-storey mature tree in the centre of what looks to be a private terrace space overlooking the English Bay beach.
Something to think about.
So that's it. We hope you've enjoyed this five-part series on different aspects of Vancouverism, from planning, to architecture, and finally to the landscaping of their public realm. Are there things that we can learn from Vancouver's experiences?
I leave you with a quote from Shawn Micallef, Editor of Spacing Toronto, taken from Toronto's Ever Changing Skylines, the concluding chapter to A Guidebook To Contemporary Architecture in Toronto.
What is now clear is that Toronto's urbanity has outpaced its built form. Even though Toronto has great culture and great buildings, its urban realm was designed for a provincial town. The city is awakening to the fact that great cities are judged by the quality of their public realm. ... Toronto continues to cultivate the rich public discourse that began in the postwar wave of development and has gone on into the contemporary wave. As the public realm wave crests, the discussion on quality of life issues is as likely to happen in a boardroom, a community meeting, an indie rock song, or in a gallery. In our new Toronto, the discussion on how the city is built will be as important as what is built. And the details will matter.
And on that note, we look forward to bringing you a report on tonight's The Walrus Toronto Project public debate at the AGO: Be It Resolved That Toronto Will Never Be Beautiful, which will see the team of Jack Diamond and John Barber debate the team of Nick Mount and Stephen Marche. Moderated by CBC's Amanda Lang, it promises to be a lively and passionate debate. Congratulations to UrbanToronto reader Thomas Evers who won two seats to the festivities. Stay tuned!