Google Earth - 3D Vancouver

Thanks to Gordon Price's tip, I have been enjoying Google Earth's 3d downtown Vancouver for a bit. It is really quite neat to be able to have 3d so easily accessible.

Now if only Street View would hurry up. Google intends to release it rather soon, and I have seen the Google StreetView car around Yaletown last November. Perhaps, the wait will be quite short.


Competition! Form Shift

FormShift competition has been finally formally announced via the Tyee. Blurb:

The City of Vancouver has developed Climate Change Action Plans as well as the EcoDensity Charter – policies and principles to guide greener and denser development, improve building performance, reduce carbon emissions, and improve the city’s overall livability. Vancouver was the first city in Canada to adopt The 2030_Challenge for green house gas reduction, committing each of us to reducing our collective environmental impact. Vancouver City Council has taken that commitment a step further with the stated goal of becoming “the greenest city in the world”.

FormShift Vancouver challenges you to give shape to these goals through ideas and design solutions that will help shape the future of the city. Be it by expanding upon Vancouver's traditional design solutions or offering an entirely new perspective, this is your chance to build a hypothetical neighbourhood of the future, one that is in keeping with the vibrant, ecologically-friendly and sustainable city to which we aspire.

It is an open international ideas competition. There are three design categories - Vancouver Primary(purse = $6000), Vancouver Secondary($4000), and Wild Card($2000) - visit the competition website to read the category descriptions in the original bureaucrat-ese and architectural framese.

Registration deadline is March 13th.

Submission deadline is April 3rd.

It is quite unfortunate really that such a substantial competition has such a short schedule, especially, as it seems to be biting roughly on the heels of the deadline for Where's the Square?'s , which has a very civil and measured time line, filled with events and public talks, like that one happening this evening with Scot Hein. Of course, the deadline for Where's the Square? is on March 20th. It seems strange that so little time is given - just enough to make pretty pictures or to give it a good think-over, but both? Rushed. Although this economic climate is great for it - who would not want the purse? - it seems that those with stress-filled jobs/well-rounded interests will likely pass it up. Here is what the Tyee has on that:

The lull offers time to focus for idle architects and designers and other creative minds [indreamcity: really? (pauses to think of anyone who's without projects or job and is idle; comes up with no one) ] . In architectural circles it's known as a "recession renaissance." Some of the best ideas and small projects happen during busts, not booms.

And then there is that $100 dollar entry fee ($50 dollars for students and interns). Hmm... This economic climate again... Perhaps many companies will enter, if not that many individuals

However, bottom line - it is a great opportunity to come up with great ideas that will be noticed. Speaking of the jury, they are: Stan Douglas, Ian Chodikoff, David Miller, Nancy Knight, Brent Toderian.

Good luck!


Image Post: Measured as we knew them

Located in Shaughnessy, this is the last completed house, the Wolfe Avenue residence, from Measured Architecture. Measured, only a year old, have won a Lieutenant Governor's award and have been named Western Living's 2008 Architects of the Year.

All images are via Measured Architecture, excepting first - credit for the very poorly scanned photo by yours truly goes to Western Living.

A few more images can be found here.


Upcoming events

Reece Terris: Ought Apartment (sketch)

- opening reception at Jennifer Kostiuk Gallery for Reece Terris on Thursday, February 12, 6-9 pm. It is a survey of earlier works and a photographic preview of his upcoming massive site-specific installation for VAG, Ought Apartment.

- Official book launch for Vancouver Matters at Charles H. Scott gallery (designed by Patkaus and worth a visit on its own merits) from 2-4pm this Saturday, February 14th. Frances Bula calls it "a must for Vancouverophiles." The official blurb:
Vancouver Matters presents a reading of the city through multiple points of view; from professors and students at the UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture to artists, architects, and designers living and working in Vancouver. Representing Vancouver's history and present materiality through writing, drawing, and photography, Vancouver Matters offers a critical examination of the city's faults and opportunities.

- And Buildex, of course. Wednesday and Thursday, Feb 11-12, 9:30-5 pm.


Anticipation of Pavilions Future

Today VANOC and Four Host First Nations (FHFN - Lil'wat, Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh) unveiled plans for the temporary Aboriginal Pavilion to be built in downtown for Vancouver 2010 Olympics and set to open in one year. Newswire article description:
Centered on a 65-foot high inflated multi-media sphere, the pavilion will use the latest technology to showcase the diversity of Aboriginal art, business, culture and sport from across Canada. Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal visitors will enjoy this experience in the relaxed, informal setting of the Pavilion.

[] Located on the plaza of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in downtown Vancouver, within easy walking distance of BC Place and GM Place, the 8,000 square-foot 2010 Aboriginal Pavilion will be right in the heart of Olympic activity, with Vancouver's Celebration Site located immediately across Cambie Street.

This $3.5 million structure designed by Hotson Bakker Boniface Haden contains both high-tech - the bubble - and traditional architecture - a Coast Salish longhouse that wraps around the bubble ( the Queen Elisabeth restaurant is appended to the complex as well as a reception hall). Although the Longhouse portion will outlive the games moving to a permanent home elsewhere, the sphere won't be so lucky.

Yet it is the sphere that is so intriguing and remarkable. After Adele Weder recently labeled Vancouver Olympic architecture "uncool" (source), the sphere might not be exactly a turning point, but finally it's something that looks at all close to being iconic, something that might come to symbolize Vancouver 2010 as far as architecture goes. It has the visual audacity that one would expect to associate with such an event - the Expos and such; seems that this little project has delivered more visual "oomph" than any other Olympic Venues have done so far. And judging from the earlier schemes, which - although inoffensive and, later, nice - were not very memorable, it has developed in the right direction:

earlier scheme:

later scheme:

There is something wonderfully optimistic ( and, yet, monumental ) about such a perfect shape. (Aside: the black ring is unsettling - it creates a resemblance to a salt lamp or something like it: Damian Inwood wrote in the Province that the pavilion "looks like a giant snow-globe, with the FHFN logo on it").

And, finally, I cannot think of that many better location markers to create a gathering place - something the organizers, FHFN, intended - than a big ball. "Meet me by the bubble," might be something many will say/text in due time.

All that said, it is still a little odd.

FHFN link


The master of the skyline?

For a guy whose firm does not even even have a website, James Cheng's incredible influence over Vancouver's skyline is remarkable as Michael Harris points out in his latest architectural article for Vancouver magazine.

His latest building - Shangri-La - is his most distinctive, both in height and in form. The completion of this hotel/residence/many-other-uses-in-one-building is probably what occasioned the article; Cheng is the Hollywood star on a press junket. Surprisingly so, as even Harris notes:
Quietly, with less publicity and fanfare than Arthur Erickson or Bing Thom, he has laid down much of the playing field the next generation of Vancouverites will navigate.
This perhaps is the key quote from the article for me. So quiet is the official marketing around JKMC that many do not know neither that he is indeed a recipient of Governor General's medal for Willow Court and Heath Court nor that he has "contributed 31 high-rises to the downtown peninsula alone, making him an architect of the entire urban experience." Cheng's impact is deep and history of his contributions goes quite far back . Now with this article and with "the" tower, he is on a path to become a household name. In Vancouver, anyway.

Although one can walk down many a street in Vancouver containing mostly Cheng's buildings, it is hard to single out any one of his buildings - save Shangri-La and, perhaps, Shaw - like one could with Erickson's. Cheng's concern is not with architecture, it would seem but with issues and context around it:

Cheng may be responsible for a massive amount of downtown Vancouver's built environment, but he's passionately interested in the space between buildings. More specifically, he cares how people do, or do not, live their lives between those buildings. He prefers to design the public realm first, fit the buildings in after.

[] "I'm not interested in whether the building is iconic," says Cheng. "What we strive for is something holistic, an environment for all people. We should be facilitators, not dictators."
In this can be found the explanation for Cheng's particular brand of architecture, largely characterized by its anonymity and universality. Yet Cheng seems to contradict his aspirations to be a facilitator while describing his retirement plans: ' " I won't ever retire" he says. "That's the nature of any artist: you only stop when life is finished". " Such swaggering self-assessment seems to be at odds with aspiration to fulfil a humble role of a facilitator. It is reflected in the way he shapes Vancouver's architecture - conspicuously inconspicuous - excepting, perhaps, Shangri-La, the sheer scale of which assures its iconic status for some years to come.

Read full article here.

Image Source: Vancouver magazine.

888 Beach - Cheng's hit.

Shaw tower

Massive development in Hainan

Cheng's own house

Touring tallest tower

Since opening on January 24, James Cheng's Shangri-La has been open for tours. Everyone can visit Vancouver's newest wonder - every Saturday and Sunday at 2 and 4 pm until the end of April.

For those who do get to see the Shangri-La, see if there are any immortals dwelling there already...

Oh yeah, here is the real thing: