Brent Toderian's blog

More on design competitions, and building a city's "culture of design"

Can a city's "design culture" be deliberately grown and fostered? If so, can City Hall be part of such a fostering, or must it come from the grass roots, from the cultural or design communities themselves?

Readers know I've been musing on these questions for a while. A few years back, after arriving here in Vancouver, I wrote on the difference between our city's reputation as a "city BY design", and the reputation some other cities have, as "cities OF design".

Great street design, and coming full-circle with our design heroes

"If we can develop and design streets so that they are wonderful, fulfilling places to be community-building places, attractive for all people then we will have successfully designed about one-third of the city."         Allan Jacobs

A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak at an event celebrating what might possibly come to be recognized as one of Vancouver's important civic feats - the redesign and reconstruction of downtown Vancouver's Granville Street.

Citifying a Suburban Shopping Centre

In a past post, I wrote on the plan to urbanize Vancouver's Oakridge Centre, our first car-oriented "suburban" shopping centre (see past post here for information, report-links and images). Some have asked how the downturn has affected the plans to proceed - as we were only anticipating going through the next steps of planning and design (rezoning) in the next year or so, with some time before the owners were planning on initiating the physical transformation of the mall, I believe they remain in "wait-and-see" mode regarding possible timing of first phases, relative to the market.

The Copenhagen Approach To "Traffic" Could Transform Your City!

Our world and our cities, would be so very different, if all of the Directors of Traffic thought like Niels Tørsløv of Copenhagen - especially if, like Niels, all such Directors were trained as landscape architects. What if the "traffic problem" was about too many bikes, and the "parking problem" was about how to deal with so many bikes overtaking the public spaces and sidewalks?

Can Vancouver "shift form"?

A new design competition thinks it can.

In a recent post, I discussed the value of open design competitions in strengthening a city's "culture of design". I explained how Vancouver, often described as a city by design but in past years perhaps lacking a competition skill-set, is seeking to strengthen that culture, albeit by small steps and grass-roots efforts thus far. Here's the link - you might want to read that post first

Laneway Housing Getting Lots of Attention

Since Vancouver Council unanimously supported the preparation of bylaws to introduce laneway housing across the City in single family zones, the housing idea has been getting consistent media attention. Although we're in the process of using modeling and dialogue to answer the last few questions - what the parking standard should be, and the exact dimensions of the 1 1/2 story model - the most common question I get is "when can we apply for one?" 

Competitions help young designers get B.I.G

Perhaps the biggest difference between the design processes in Europe and North America, at the building scale and increasingly at the neighbourhood scale, is in the use of design competitions. I've been fascinated by this difference for some time, and make a point while in every competition-friendly city I'm in, to dig a little deeper.  

Water City Design - Copenhagen and Vancouver

In 2008 I took a wonderful trip to Copenhagen, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Malmo, Sweden. Although the occasion involved invitations to speak on Vancouver's waterfront achievements and challenges, it was really an opportunity for me to learn from these dynamic cities, and see the best and worst of European waterfront design and master-planning. 

Water City Design: Vancouver

Since arriving in Vancouver, I've realized that we are part of a "peer group" of international water cities. Through waterfront design conferences where the same cities seem to get invited time and time again, or through deeper and more interactive collegial opportunities for shared learning such as summits or study trips, these global water cities are taking every opportunity to learn from each other's successes and failures around water-edge planning and design.