urban

Some gems in the file management abyss

I have actually been making progress on getting through my file management abyss. It is getting there. Slowly but surely.

Some of the more painful parts are going by.

It’s a weird way to go back and relive parts of one’s life.

I am currently going through my urban design for health and well-being notes, and am enjoying how much really great environmental psychology info is in there. It was basically an intro to environmental psychology class and I loved it. The folders include recommended readings, theories and info on stuff like how noise in the built environment impacts humans. Hello.

The problem isn't single-detached homes. It's banning anything else

It might seem like I hate single-detached homes. I don’t.

Personally, I have no desire to live in one. I don’t want a dog or kids or a garden or a lawn. So all those things people would if they were rationally selecting a single-detached home for I don’t want.

The problem isn’t that some folks want and can afford single-detached homes — though there are heaps of problems with the way we build single-detached homes — but that I can’t live in a townhouse or condo or apartment in most communities in Canada. The problem is that single-detached homes are the only thing you are allowed to build.

Our communities are this endless monotonous sameness of control and inflexibility. There’s this box we’re all supposed to fit into and if we don’t we’re a problem or we have to go to specific places where that thing is in fact allowed.

If you own a single-detached home and like your single-detached home that’s lovely. I’m not going to take that away from you. I just want a home that suits my needs.

I also think our communities would be a lot better if they included diversity and choice.

How many people living in single-detached homes very consciously and intentionally choose that vs did it because it was the thing to do and they wanted to live in a certain area and there were no other options. Or the stock of other options was awful because it gets built so infrequently.

I don’t fit into the box of suburban home ownership and I don’t want to.

That box hurts all of us, even those with single-detached homes. Difference, diversity and choice are good for everyone. You don’t have to want something for it to be worth having as an option.

Porcupine hills

I’m not a religious person but I have been drawn to the idea of the sacredness of the everyday since back in undergrad when I was getting into religious studies. Listening to this always reminds me of that.

I belong to the church of the long grass,
The Parish of the Porcupine Hills,
The grass can grow as tall as an old timers tale,
Some say taller still,
I belong to the church of the long grass,
The Parish of the Porcupine Hills,
I’ve always seen this land as holy,
I guess I always will
— John Wort Hannam

With a little help from my friends

I love the Swiss Miss newsletter. I hate getting email but I always open this one. It brightens my day.

The latest edition included this quote:

It’s as simple and as complex as that. You’re the only you that’s ever been. Keep showing up despite the chaos. Be humble in the pursuit of your art and ruthless about finding the time to make it. Find friends with whom you can weather the tragic gaps. Give one another loving, honest feedback and teach each other how to make money in weird, sustaining ways. Collaborate and commiserate. Make relationships that are reciprocal, not transactional. Make lives that aren’t easy, but rife with good material. Make art that matters.
— Courtney Martin

I am a sucker for a good quote. And this is a good quote.

It's got the simple and complex thing. Because it really is that easy and that hard. You just have to do it. As best as you can. Even though you don't really know how.

The main thing I like about this is the find friends part. Because I have found some friends, a crew of sorts, of the kind I've been longing for since I finished undergrad and the easy friendships that come with close proximity and common existences.

I had no idea when I took that job at that bike store or got involved with the Bike Root what would happen, where it would take me. I had no idea that I was finding my people, a group of fantastic wonderful people. That it would lead me to friendships and love and community and belonging.

Having good friends isn't something you should take for granted. When I was an undergrad I did. I don't anymore. Instead, tonight I am grateful for the friends that I have found because they are pretty fantastic.

 

Sound and the City

A few years ago, and by a few I mean a few, my sister sent me an audio postcard from London where she was living at the time. It had recordings of different spots around the city. I really loved the concept of it. Little snippets of these places and spaces. Capturing the experience of what it was like to be there.

I've always felt that need to capture experiences. To share them. To document them. That's part of why I spent a big chunk of the last 24 hours going through old blog posts and moving them here. It's tedious but I feel a need to do it. Because then it's all here. Every post. Every lousy post. And a couple of good ones.

That way I can look back at where I've been and in a way see a bit of how I got to here.

I can see the work, the evolution and think about who i was and what I was doing.

When I look back on my life and all the things I've done I have words and images to document them and to place me back into that moment. I think that's pretty cool.

After receiving the audio postcard I came up with the idea of doing my own audio postcards. I came up with a project called Sound and the City that never went anywhere. I did some audio recordings and a basic design but that was pre-podcast and I didn't do much with it.

Nowadays I spend most of my time listening to podcasts. They are my main form of entertainment, a way to feel connected, to learn, to be challenged. I am who I am and I'm doing what I'm doing in large part because of podcasts.

I think about starting a podcast. A lot.

It started with me being annoyed that a couple of my favourite podcasts don't interview landscape architects and urban designers. Who else would you want to interview? If I had a podcast it'd be all built environment all the time. Then I was like I guess I'm the person who should start that podcast.

It's a thought and if it sticks around long enough then maybe it'll go somewhere.

I'm looking for a producer and composer if anyone is interested.

I'm also trying to think of a name.

Wild Thing: Conversations about the built and natural environment comes to mind. I think it would confuse people and be too associated with other things. Usually the name comes and then there's a project.

Maybe when I think of a name and wrap up that book I'm editing and settle into school and have a better handle on my health problems and all 500 other ideas I have I'll do it.

And maybe if I do do it I'll include little snippets of sound from spots around this city, audio postcards of sorts.

Car Free Day Westend cellphone

A couple of cellphone snaps from Car Free Day in the West End.

The first is a book that I am confident I will enjoy. The chair disappeared shortly after I sat down — I was waiting for some friends and the festivals was wrapping up — but I had good banters with the guy who was putting them away.

The other is a broken chair I saw after I was rendered chairless.

Car Free Day Westend Mirrorless

I got to car free day on Denman in the West End around 6ish. It's been hella hot so I wanted to let it cool off then time got away from me. I was annoyed that a number of booths had packed up even though it said it runs until 7. Ahem.

Anyways. I collected numerous buttons and bought an on sale hat so it counts as a win.

I also made it to the library five minutes before it closed, averting the tragedy of having mistakenly taken out a book I've already read instead of a book I want to read that normally lives next to it at a different library. I plooped it on the counter and found another book in about sixty seconds. I am pro.

Car Free Day Mainstreet Mirrorless

Some shots from Car Free Day on Mainstream yesterday.

I don't love street festivals. Mostly they're overwhelming and hot. So many people. I do like some of the booths and I feel like I need to get out to these things because they are a car free day.

I do like that I got to wander free on a space that normally isn't mine. I do like that they're a chance for all of us to reconsider who and what streets can be for.

I will also add that normal pedestrianized streets aren't a street festival. They can be busy, they can have booths, but they're generally a bit quieter, freer, like the seawall.

In the loop

There is some really really nice housing in Marda Loop. I wish we had zoning more like this everywhere.

The area could still working on having actual high street zoning so that the whole of the mainstream all the way to and then along 14th could actually have retail and active frontages but overall it's a good hood in yyc,

Outliers at Fairy Tales Film Festival

Some cellphone snaps from the Outliers film a couple of days ago.

A friend invited me, in part because I went on one of Kevin Allen's Gay History walks a few years ago so he knew I'd be interested. It was a cool film and I hope that they make those commemorative plaques happen. This history should be noted and celebrated in our public spaces.

I also think that there's potential for the use of sidewalk stamps to reference this history. When at some point the sidewalk outside the Carousel Club is replaced you could easily put some stamps of carousel horses in the sidewalk as a neat little reference to the important space that was once in that place.

Some thoughts on the future of 17th ave

One of the great things about current journalism and social media is that we get to have conversations and engage with ideas. The Sprawlhas started a fantastic conversation about the future of 17th ave and I have decided to weigh in with my $0.03. (This received positive feedback on Twitter.)

Over the years I have spent a lot of time on 17th. First as a teenager in junior high school when we strayed across the river from the north to this magical seeming place. 17thseemed so cool and big. The entire city did.

We mostly stuck with the bits between 4thst and where Steeling Home is today. We'd go to Blue Light Special, that cool store where The George apartments and the Best Buy are now. We'd go to the thrift store on the second floor at the building by Reid's. I don't know if it's there anymore. We'd go to Divine and look at the shoes and flip through shirts.

I was never good at pulling magical outfits off of thrift store racks but it was fun anyways. Mostly I bought t-shirts including an Expo 86 one with an astronaught on it and thought I was super cool. Really I was just an awkward tomboy who didn't know what they were doing — who knows how much that has changed.

Nowadays 17th doesn't seem so mysterious or magical. It's a place I am used to instead of somewhere I am discovering.

I love the Beltline. It's probably my favourite community in Calgary. I like urban and diverse places. I feel more at home amongst high rises and townhomes than in the suburb where I grew up or the suburb where I live now in Vancouver — I am visiting Calgary at the moment so I can add that credibility to my opinions. If I were to live anywhere in Calgary the Beltline would be at the top of my list. Bankview and Lower Mount Royal would be up there too.

There's something special about this place.

So here are some of the thoughts I have based on listening to the podcast episode and the coverage that's happened so far:

1.

The redo is a huge missed opportunity. It's very car-centric and could be so much more.

2.

I don't understand the Robson St comparison. What does that mean?

What qualities of Robson St are they referring to? What built form is this suggesting? Does this comparison include the pedestrianized block of Robson Square?

3.

How gradual is this change going to be?

I worry that if too many buildings are redeveloped at once it could really disrupt what makes 17thspecial while resulting in homogenous construction. Jane Jacobs remarked in The Death and Life of Great American Citiesthat areas should evolve over time and have a diversity of ages of building stock. She also warned that if areas evolve too quickly and there is too much pressure for a popular area to redevelop that it can cancel out what made it good in the first place.

Will that be lost on 17th? Will what has made the area so successful result in it losing it's spark?

I'd recommend that the developer be careful to ensure that buildings look different and to partner with different architects to ensure diversity. It would be a huge shame for the street to look the same.

This is an opportunity to partner with various talented local and international architects to get creative and do great work on this street.

4.

I bristled at Rollin Stanley's remarks about his comfort level riding in traffic. On both a personal level and as an aspiring built environment professional I take issue with much of what this statement says about the future of 17th and who it is for.

How we design our streets is very important. Built environment professionals decide how people live and how they die. If they get it wrong then it can cost people their lives. I may be a bit intense at times but I care a lot about this stuff and I do not take road design lightly. We have a responsibility to ensure that our streets are safe, equitable, inclusive and accessible.

We should not design our streets for the small minority of people who feel comfortable cycling in traffic. We don't build cycle tracks for middle-aged white men who will ride regardless of infrastructure design. We build cycle tracks for people like me.

I am an anxious and timid female cyclist. I would never ride on 17th. Ever.

I wish I was more comfortable and confident. I wish I wasn't freaked out by stuff as much as I am. I got into cycling activism in large part because I didn't feel safe riding on my city's streets but I wanted to.

The cycle tracks have opened up large parts of the city to people who have never had that chance before. I can now ride my bike to the Beltline.

We should design them for those with vulnerabilities and those who would otherwise be excluded from accessing them. This is about freedom and choice. It is about inclusive and accessible design. Everyone should be able to feel safe and comfortable on 17thnot just those with the most privilege.

The 8 to 80 approach to city building is one that I think should guide everything we do. It argues that if you design roads, spaces, cities, etc for an 8-year-old and an 80-year-old you will end up designing a road that does a good job of serving everyone.

If you design a road to serve the needs of middle-aged white dudes who feel safe riding in traffic you're going to design a space that doesn't meet a lot of people's needs. It certainly doesn't meet mine.

I also wonder about vision zero, the idea that no number of traffic deaths is acceptable. By designing 17th as a car-centric space we are saying that a certain number of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities and injuries will occur. Safety and well-being should be put above parking spaces. We should fully commit to vision zero and stop making excuses for anything less. 

5.

Back to Jane Jacobs I think she'd love 17th. It's everything that crazy chaotic cities should be. It's what happens when you don't have rules forbidding most things and let a place evolve naturally.

The Beltline is diverse and dynamic. You can find so many different types of things all together and that's what works.

We should let the flexibility and randomness continue instead of forbidding it as so much planning does.

6.

How many malls are struggling because the anchor tenant model is dying? Is this really the best idea for how to plan the future of 17th?

7.

12–15 stories totally count as midrise. I've been told that 6 stories is basically a highrise and I'm like uh no. I will be referring to this the next time someone tells me modest midrise is a highrise.

8.

Midrise offers a fantastic opportunity to transition between the highrise character of the Beltline and the lower heights in Cliff-Bungalow Mission and Lower Mount Royal. This is a great strategy and I am excited to see how it plays out.

9.

If people aren't comfortable with fully pedestrianizing 17th there is potential for part-time closures. Calgary should consider a summer streets program where certain streets are closed on Saturdays or Sundays in summer. It would also be worth considering closing part of 17thto traffic on Friday and Saturday nights to allow nightlifers to meander between bars. I have suggested this for 10thave as well.

When I was in Edinburgh I lived near a street called the Cowgate. It was home to a high concentration of bars and was closed to traffic on Friday and Saturday nights.

This would be a good way of introducing folks who are a little bit timid about pedestrianization to seeing the street differently and to imagining what it would be like if it was more about 17thas a place than 17th as a way of moving cars.

Stephen Ave serves as the heart of Downtown. 17th is the heart of a handful of other communities. I think it would be a more vibrant and successful place if we gave more space on it to pedestrians and less to cars. This could include wider sidewalks or full pedestrianization.

Many cities around the world are making bold moves in giving road space over to pedestrians and cyclists. Will Calgary be joining them with a reimagined 17th?