Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Shim-Sutcliffe's Toronto

An interesting article in the Weekend Post by Vanessa Farquharson that explores Toronto through the prism of city architects Shim-Sutcliffe. It's part lifestyle piece, part urban treatise and has considerable insight into the city's built environment.

Brigitte Shim talks about the neighborhood they live and work in- Leslieville- noting that they chose it largely based on an empty lot on which they could build a modern laneway house.

She further discusses the broader fabric of Toronto, comments which can easily apply to Vancouver:

"Much like Leslieville, Toronto is still in transition - it has a ways to go. So you have to think about how its buildings contribute to the landscape and community as a whole. If we're less obsessed with trophy buildings and more interested in how to build a great city, it gives people tons of reasons to want to be here."

Given the calibre of their work, more designs from Shim-Sutcliffe in Toronto (and Vancouver, for that matter) would be a good thing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Laneway Housing Takes Root

After much debate, Vancouver city council is set to vote today and approve the
Laneway Housing plan.

Geared toward residential neighborhoods on the West Side, it will allow homeowners to create secondary housing at the back of city lots. The plan promises to densify the city as part of the larger Eco-Density initiative.

Though there has been much dialogue from both sides of the issue (Westsiders accused of NIMBYism; concerns of a detrimental impact on Vancouver's urban fabric), it must be said that good design can solve many problems and the potential for this program is exciting.

From the city's website here are the main points of the plan:

- In RS-1 and RS-5 single family areas
- On lots 33' wide and wider, with an open lane, on a double fronting street, or on a corner with a lane dedication
- Generally located in the space where a garage would be permitted
- Rental or family only/no strata-titling
- Minimum on-site parking requirement of either 1 or 2 parking spaces: TBD by Council
- Unit size based on lot size to a maximum of 750 sq. ft. (approx. 500 sq. ft. unit on a 33'x122' lot)
- 1 and 1.5 storey configurations, with guidelines to address upper storey privacy, massing and shadowing
- Enabling homeowners to add a laneway house while retaining their existing main house; with
or without a secondary suite in the main house (a laneway house could also be built with a new

Monday, July 27, 2009

Richard's Last Stand

Richard's on Richards has hosted its last show and will be torn down at the end of July to make way for more of Vancouver's ubiquitous condos.

The closure of Richards marks the final chapter in the transition of this area of downtown from low-rise commercial and light-industrial. The long-demolished Starfish room, the Sugar Refinery, Luv-a-fair and Graceland all contributed to the city's musical landscape and all are gone.

The venerable Railway Club is still thriving but the trend is either to the East Side (The Biltmore) or the Downtown Eastside (The Emergency Room), where venues can rise and fall with the seasons, mostly due to the city's overly stringent by-laws and non-compliance on the part of operators. Other rooms (Red Room, the Plaza) operate infrequently enough as live music venues (focusing on the dance/club crowd) that any kind of sustained awareness is difficult.

It's hard to bemoan a more densified and rejuvenated downtown core, but there does need to be an assessment of Vancouver's cultural landscape. The risk in losing so many of these small, seemingly marginal spaces is a cumulative sterilization of our streets and a much less interesting city, for both tourists and its citizens.

Friday, July 3, 2009

D'Arcy Jones Design

Finally some
substance in the Globe & Mail's Real Estate section.

Adele Weder contributes a profile on Vancouver's D'Arcy Jones Design. The article focuses on Jones' residential work and his desire to craft smaller, considered and finely detailed spaces rather than the standard resale-driven Vancouver monster home.

It's a well-deserved spotlight on Jones and yet another illuminating article on the West Coast modernist renaissance by Weder.