Viva Vancouver 2013
August 29, 2013
Only one week-end before back to school: it is time to draw some conclusions when memory are still fresh on the Viva Vancouver 2013 season
Judging the Viva programming is certainly a question of view point:
Some minor projects here and there, like the park-lets or the public pianos, are certainly positive actions for our public spaces, but the Viva signature projects will be on Robson square and Granville street. It is the focus on in this post
For some, the Viva 2013 program will be considered as a tremendous success:
- Closing Granville Mall to bus, for the sake to provide space to a for profit car company subsidiary, is a noticeable achievement
For others, it will be considered simply as disappointing, if not a failure:
This Year flagship installation, Corduroy Road at Robson square, was providing some seating using warm material, bringing the street partially at level with the sidewalk. Alas, as noticed before by Stephen Rees, it never get used much more than a glorified foodcourt, and beside lunch time, the place was looking too empty to be attractive :
- The installation itself, providing little interactivity, at the difference of the very popular 2012 PopRock, or the 2011 Picnurbia, could be at cause.
- The fact that both side of the 700 block of Robson street are going under renovation, was not helping either
But more probably, the “Olympic atmosphere” memories which people could have been looking at when wandering on the Vancouver street in the previous summers is simply fading, and the interest for the programming of our public spaces is disappearing. More simply, there is not enough pedestrian traffic to “fill-up” the offered space, which is too big considering the pedestrian traffic .
That is a disappointment. A particularly sunny summer makes it even bitter.
It becomes a significant failure, when the goal is to demonstrate the viability of a year round closure, and in despite of a generous funding, Viva was not even able to meaningfully program the space it seized, for the 2 most favourable months of the year: Presenting a “car2go” booth as a way to program our public space, has turned the experience into a farce, to not say a full scale fiasco.
The conclusion on the viability of a permanent Robson square closure should be obvious, and the last year experiment- keeping Robson square pedestrian only during the fall 2012- should have given hints:
Where are the people?
As we have mentioned before, the Vancouver geography of public spaces has changed with the introduction of the Canada line: The Georgia#Granville intersection (and more specifically the plaza in front of the London Drugs) has replaced Robson Square as a major Vancouver’s focal point. That reminds us the importance of transit as it comes to define the geography of the city public space, and pedestrians activity, this for the best and the less good:
Transit, and transit users need to be accomodated, not hidden, and if the City of Vancouver is true to its transportation 2040 plan, the “problem” illustrated above will become more acute in the future: It should be addressed and not made worse.
We eagerly await the return of the bus 5 on its historic route and hope reason will prevail at City Hall
 Robson street is 80′ wide. There is virtually no example of pedestrian only street in Europe with such width. New York Broadway Avenue, at ~80′ wide, could be the closest, but the pedestrianized block around Times Square see a traffic of 350,000 pedestrians/day