Hadden park, a bit of history

November 12, 2013

Most of the below come from Megan Carvell Davis affidavit in [1]. She had already stated the issue in a comment on the bike lane vs the park post, but then unaware of the covenant exact terms, I have no commented on that before. The below is under the light of this covenant attached in [1]:

Some historical context

Hadden park (right part) and Vanier park (left) circa 1907...the staircase seems at the same location as today

Hadden park (right part) and Vanier park (left) circa 1907…the staircase seems at the same location as today

The land known now as Hadden park (originally given to CPR as a provincial crown grant in 1886) was promised to be a harbour, according to the CPR wishes:

Kitsilano plan by the CPR - circa ~1920

Kitsilano plan by the CPR – circa ~1890

The CPR always had some development plans for this Kitsilano area, and those encountered opposition at the time (“already many nimby there!”): Even the park board objected to see this area (the land east of Chestnut, was also slated to be an indian reserve by the federal government), to be turned into a major facility for shipping, this in July 1919 [1]. The area was then looking like below:

toto

1919 aerial view of Kitsilano, and what is now Hadden and Vanier parks

Picture from 1982 Ogden avenue, circa 1923- future Hadden park is second grown bush – it will be restored in a more “natural” state by 1928 – (credit photo CoV archive ref AM1376-: CVA 1376-691)

“According to the 1933 journal of Major J.S. Matthews, Vancouver’s first city archivist, on his final trip to Vancouver in 1928,
Mr Harvey Hadden, a real estate business man from London, expressed the view that he would “like to do something for Vancouver which had done so well for him-in his real estate investments”. Hadden accepted the proposal of his former architect and friend, Mr S. M. Eveleigh that there should be a waterfront park connecting the Kitsilano Indian Reserve to Kitsilan Beach.” [1]
In October 1928, Mr Hadden, gave for a $1 and subject to a covenant, to the city of Vancouver, the properties he had just purchased from the CPR. That is block 136 and 137 (DL 526), then valued at $41,000, are shown below:

subdivisionDl526

Hadden donation to the city consist of the block 136 and 137: only those block are covered by the covenant Hadden donation to the city consists of the block 136 and 137: only those blocks are covered by the covenant

The city accepted the gift, and the covenant.

Hadden park, as we know today, consists of

  • Block 136 and 137 (DL 526) as donated by Mr Harvey Hadden
  • “Closed road” Maple and Cypress, North of Ogden, on April 27, 1931
    • The Centennial Totem pole erected in October 1958, is in the Cypress ROW north of Ogden
  • “water lots” 5780 and 5781 granted by the Province of british columbia, on June 12, 1935
    • Part of those land has been filled up, noticeabily to erect the maritime museum in 1958, and the unleashed dog area is also on this area

The covenant
The term of the Hadden Trust are that Hadden Park (that is stricto senso applying to block 136 and block 137 as illustrated above)

  • “shall be used as and for a Public Park or recreation ground and not for any other purpose whatsoever”
  • “shall be improved and put in shape as a public park or recreation ground, but in carrying out such improvements the Board of Park Commissioners shall keep the property as near as possible in its present state of nature subject to such alterations or changes as may be reasonable necessary for its preservation and for the safety and enjoyment of the public. it being the desire of the grantor that those using the Park shall as far as reasonably may be enjoy the same in its natural state and condition”

The maritime museum

In the 1950’s, the city had acquired the St Roch vessel and was looking for a place to moor and preserve it.
After much controversy, a decision was made to house the St Roch into a new building: the maritime museum. This will be built circa 1958, on land granted by the Province in 1935: The “water lots” 5780 and 5781 have been partially filled for that purpose, and that has been considered at one point as not violating the covenant by the city [3]. The fact that the blocks 136 and 137, have lost de facto, their waterfront status, is considered as a violation of the riparian right of the said blocks, this, according to the Hadden park conservators [1].

The dog off-leash area

The covenant, stipulates that “the grantee shall use and maintain the properties for park purposes and the beach for bathing more especially for women and children”. In 1998, the park board approved Hadden Park Beach as an off-leash dog area, while that dogs are not allowed on bathing beaches, according to the park bylaws [2].

The enforcement of the covenant in that matter per-suppose, that the blocks 136 and 137 have riparian right, but the city viewpoint could be that:

Mr Hadden rights did not extend below high water mark as he did not hold title to the water lot which was at that time in the name of the crown. He therefore had no power to convey any rights with respect to bathing on the beach [3].

The letter and the spirit of the covenant

The spirit of the covenant could not have been respected that well, but so far the letter of the covenant has been relatively well respected (neither the maritime museum, nor the totem pole are on properties donated by Hadden). Basically, the only alteration the properties has seen since 1928, has been the installation of benches (already there circa ~1940), and can be considered, as a reasonnable alteration forward a better enjoyment of the park. The construction of a bike path, directly on block 136-137 could certainly set a major precedent:

the "approved" bike path  routhe into Hadden park. Some cyclists currently use the path on the right, but is it legal?

the “approved” bike path routhe into Hadden park. Some cyclists currently use the path on the right, but is it legal? (credit photo facebook)


Main source is the lawsuit filled by Megan Carvell Davis [1]

[1] lawsuit filled by Megan-Carvell-Davis-vs-City-of-Vancouver, on Nov 4th, 2013

[2] park by laws City of Vancouver, Jan 1st, 2008.

[3] Corporation counsel letter to city, November 20th, 1957, as attached in [1]

Edited after Stephen Rees comment
At the 1995 Fall

  • Up to 1987, the 9 was the only cross-town service along Broadway. and started to have runs to UBC only after University Bld got Trolley wires in 1988.
  • Before, 1987, UBC was reached from the Broadway corridor by the bus 10 (nowadays route 14), which had been extended to UBC in fall 1968 (then it was working in combination with the Hasting express bus)
  • With the advent of the Expo line in 1986, BC transit will start an express service from Commercial (now Commercial-Broadway) to UBC, in fall 87, numbered 81 the first year, then 31:
    • The bus 31, was a typical rush hour only express service with pick up only at all local bus stop East of Oak, for the West bound direction (and drop off only for the east bound), then non stop to UBC.

1996, Introduction of the 99 B line service on the Fall

The original B line Logo – credit flikr user: mag3737

It is the first time Broadway has an uninterrupted service from Boundary to UBC, and service extendining on Lougheed Hwy up to Lougheed.

      The preliminary service is weekday only, but is running all day long (without evening serice), and receives a special branding: the “Bee Line” logo.

      express route 31 is discontinued

      The line will reach the UBC loop after enlargment of it, in the spring 1997. The Clark stop will be added at the same time

      Sasamat is added in the Fall 1997

The service is an instant success, and the offer needs to be reinforced as soon as Nov 1996, where peak morning frequency is already at 4mn between Commercial and UBC [2]

.

1998: Full deployment in the fall

The bus b8025, in its original B line livery.

The bus b8025, in its original B line livery. The 99B route featured Low floor buses which were a novelty in 98 in Vancouver. the special livery was also new and came unspoiled by advertising. buses were coming with a bike rack what was also new – This bus (b8025) was part of a second order to face increased demand) credit photo Peter MacLaughlin, 2000

A new fleet of 21 low-floor articulated buses with a distinctive B-Line paint scheme and bike rack was deployed. All that were novelties on the Vancouver bus system in 1998. Service is extended on week-end and evening [2]. The Brentwood-Boundary loop route (109) is then discontinued.

The ridership increased by 20%, prompting an order for 5 additional buses

Bus bulges are installed at the Sasamat bus stop, in May/June 1998 [5], as a demonstration project: Besides it, the 99B line never benefited of any BRT like fixed infrasrtucture

2002 and after: the Skytrain Millenium line days

  • The Skytrain line replaces the B line east of Commercial in 2002
  • In 2003, Translink introduces non stop bus between COmmercial and UBC (99 Special) to handle additioan demand generated by the introduction of the U-Pass
    • The students, continued to board the first 99 showing up, rather than waiting for the 99 Special, which was then not alleviating crowding. the 99 special service has been discontinued with the introduction of the route 84:
  • In Jan 2006, the opening of the VCC-Clark station allows the opening of a new route from it to UBC (#84), supposed to relieve crowding on the Broadway corridor
  • Fraser, and Arbutus stop are added in 2009
Transit service along the Broadway corridor

Broadway99Broadway10 Transit service along the Broadway corridor, in 1995, 1999 and 2010

Ridership evolution

year daily ridership
Oct 1996 8,500 [2]
Nov 1996 10,000 [2]
1998 16,000 (*) [7]
1999 20,000 [7]
2002 26,000 [7]
2007 45,000 [8]
2011 54,350 [9]

(*) The Original BC Transit estimate was 12,000 [2]

The line is extremely busy, with long line up before boarding at several stop, as Commercial pictured here. People line-up on 3 queues (one per door).

The line is extremely busy, with long line up before boarding at several stops, as Commercial WB pictured here. People line-up on 3 queues (one per door) – credit photo Vancotybuzz

Some reasons for the success

It is worth to notice a great emphasis on the marketing side, and its technical limitation [6] :

  • A distinctive product:
    • The B line branding is applied to any aspect of the bus service: bus, bus-stop, map and schedule
      It is worth to mention that the bee line logo copyright has been challenged by an individual: the controversy did some stride in the mediaa, bringing exposure to the product itself
      The buses looking “different” don’t get unnoticed by drivers.
      The line has his dedicated bus stop
      The accessible low floor buses has been a disruptive point in the industry (same has occured with trams in the 90’s)

But one, must not forget the “geometry” fundamental of the line:

  • Where it was ~37 bus stop between Commercial and Alma (route 9), the 99B was offering only 6 (now 8) along the same 8.5km segment.
    • The time gain is especially consequent (up to 40% time gain)
  • The strong Central broadway anchor (before not directly accessible from the Lougheed corridor
  • At the exception of Allison and Heather (Vancouver General Hospital), All stop connect with other network bus lines:
    • The B line, especially in its eastern part (pre millenium line), is conceived as to be feeded by local buses.
      The B line runs on as much as of the entire corridor broadway-Lougheed, making it very legible
      In practice service east of Commercial was relatively limited, but people coming from the Lougheed corridor, was able to board on a fast service offering limited stop service in Vancouver

The route 44 (limited stop from down town to UBC), having replaced the express route 85 (local on the downtown peninsula, then non stop up to UBC) participate from the same philosophical approach as the 99B.

The 98B line
The line opened on August 7, 2001, after a 4 1/2 month transit strike

At the time of the introduction of the 98B, the B line logo has changed, and Translink color are blue and yellow (instead of red and blue, former BC transit color)


The 98B line will capitalize on all the 99B lessons, but will add some BRT like features:

  • Dedicated Right of Way (number 3 road in Richmond), and bus lanes in Vancouver (Marpole)
  • Specially designed bus shelter, with real time information system
  • premeption of traffic signal (at least in Richmond)
    • The system was originally deployed to accelreate fire department response: it was not clear it was very efficient for transit operations

It is possible that Translink, could have liked to discontinue all direct services from Richmond, to having them feeding the 98B line…In fact rush hour direct services has been preserved, but the 98B line replaced a rather confusing array of bus routes (401, 403, 406 and 407) with a legible, direct, and frequent service, between Vancouver and Richmond Center. The line has been discountinued in fall 2010, as being replaced by the Canada line


[1] The Buzzer, BC Transit 1987 Aug 28

[2] The Buzzer, BC Transit 1996 Nov 29

[3] The Buzzer, BC Transit, 1998 Aug, 21

[5] TCRP Program report 65: Evaluation of Bus Bulbs, National Academy press, Washington D.C., 2001

[6] Vancouver’s BLine Experience, Jeffrey Busby, TRB Annual Meeting 13 January 2013.

[7] TCRP report 90: Bus Rapid Transit Volume 1: Case Studies ( Annex B Bus Rapid TransitVancouver British Columbia, Translink #98 and #99 B lines), National Academy press, Washington D.C., 2003

[8] “Planning of Vancouver’s Transit Network with an Operations-Based Model“, Ian Fisher, May 1 2009, Translink

[9] “Bus System Performance Review”. May 31, 2012 – Translink

At a time when “both TransLink and the City of Vancouver are aiming to establish a common vision for bus service in downtown Vancouver“, it is still interesting to have a look at what has been done in past in that respect

In 1975, the Bureau of Transit Services, then depending from the Minister of municipal affairs prepared a transit service plan to complement the City land plan [1]:

1975 Vancouver Downtown transit Plan

1975 proposal for the Vancouver Downtown transit Plan, extract from [1]

This plan is important in many aspects, and mainly the adopted methodology

It lays down the general picture in which a downtown plan can take shape

Thought not in service in 1975, the West Coast Express concept were already discussed, and the terminals and vessels, for the seabus, were under construction. The skytrain was still a quite distant concept [2], but the LRT discussed in the plan is clearly considered as a pre-metro, aimed to be underground in the Core Business district.

But More importantly,

It lays down 7 principles guiding the plan
Those principle are subdivized into 3 common service characteristics:

  • Direct Routing
  • (1) Don’t divert routes to serve specific needs: Diversion means a less attractive service for most of the travellers
    (2) Use secondary services connecting to main ones, to serve “out of the way” area (rather than divert main routes)

  • Minimize unecessary transfers
  • (3) Use the downtown grid for “random schedule” transfers

  • Minimal walking distance to final destinations
  • StraightThru
    (4) Go Straight thru the “center of gravity” of an area, and not its periphery, which increases the total walking distance by half.
    (5) Transit and pedestrians: the concept of pedestrianization and transit must not be treated independently.
    The study cites Jane Jacobs [3] to support the idea of bringing together the transit network with the pedestrian area [6]
    (6) Prefer two way operations over one way, since it offers the maximum coverage
    (7) Prefer nearside bus stop over farside, sinec it allows the passengers to alight before have to wait at a traffic light.

Many, if not all, of this principles are what Jarret Walker calls the geometry of Transit, and that is the reason why they are still as valid in 2013 as they were in 1975:

  • Principle (7): Thought some cities like Montreal and Toronto, have bus stopa on the nearside, most of the cities adopt a farside model, since it usually allows a better general traffic output, and modern LRT/trams use also farside bus stops, since it allows a more efficient signal preemption
  • Principle (1), (4) and (6): They are very strong transit geometry principles which have justified the conversion of Manners Mall in Wellington New Zealand, from a pedestrian only street to a transit mall.
  • Principle (4) and (5) are why transit needs to be considered as part of the urban fabric

Some comments on the DT plan
The geometry of transit largely comfort the relevance of the historic streetcar grid:

Robson bus 5 ( Ex-Saskatoon Brill trolley 2363), at Robson square, in May 1980. Note the “Shoppers Free” Bus sign – Photo, courtesy from Angus McIntyre

  • The choice of the streets is guided by principle (4)
    • At the time of drafting the plan the Robson bus was using the couplet of one way streets Smythe/Robson: a two way service along Robson is clearly the privilegied choice.
  • The streetcar service along Hornby, was expected to use the Arbutus line outside the DT core: the routing thru Hornby plan is consistent with the 1972 Erickson plan developped for the court house complex.
    • The advent of the Canada line kind of fullfill this vision.
  • The Robson square is envisioned to be a pedestrian oriented area, serviced by transit in full accordance with principle (4), and the Arthur Erickson’s vision for Robson square:
      The only traffic through the square will be inner city buses, linking the West and and False Creek. Since buses function as people movers, they are seen as a compliment or enhancement to the pedestrian activity of the civic square [...]


The underlying philosophy leading to the plan, articulating pedestrian areas around transit, and not the reverse, illustrates the dramatic shift of the current Vancouver council approach, which dismiss the transit geometry, as illustrates the Robson bus circling the square
to serve a “specific need”.

At the end a transit service is envisioned on Nelson to complement the planned development of the westend, as well as a pheripheral line, to serve the “social and recreational” place on the pheriphery of downtown:

Remarkably, they are echoing recurring wishes for Transit in downtown, but the plan warms that “…there really is not much to be gained in professing support for programmes to get more people to use public transit without commitment to actions to give transit priority use of streets in Downtown Vancouver and in other urban centres in the metropolitan area.”

Alas, the current Vancouver council policies could not be farther apart of this commitment to transit.

One can also consult [5] for a different coverage of [1]


[1] Draft memorandum on transit service planning to complement downtown peninsula plans of the City of Vancouver, Bureau of Transit Services, BC Minister of Municipal affairs, Sept 19, 1975. (13.6MB file)

[2] the underlying concept had been drafted by Harry Rankin by 1970, see The Case for Rapid Transit…in 1970

[3] The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs, Random House, New York, 1961

[4] 51-61-71 Project, block 71 Schematics, Arthur Erickson Architects, 1974

[5] Vancouver’s 1975 downtown transit plan, John Calimenete, April 7, 2010

[6] This view is echoed by Jan Gehl, among others, providing rational for Transit on Sydney’s George Street.

A parisian bus stop

November 19, 2012

There is little piece of urban furniture we interact more than with a bus stop pole, and still this element of the urban fabric is too often neglected (his brother the bus shelter has usually better fortune). Below an essay on the Parisian bus stop pole:

It is in 1922 that Paris and the Seine department agreed to have bus stop installed on the streets. At this time, some are part of lampposts, they will be mounted on independent pole, what is now the general practice, at the time of the replacement of the gas lampposts by electrical ones:

A Parisian bus stop circa 1930, Place St Michel – Side circles present the route number while the sidewalk face present the route followed by the bus (The street face present the bus stop name) side credit photo (1)

Save for the RATP color scheme of the time, up to the 1970, the bus stop shape didn’t changed, becoming a clear Parisian identifier:

Left picture: Bus stop from side adopted a bicolor scheme after 1930- Sophie Litvak model by Georges Dambier for Elle 1952. Right picture: Place St Michel in 1967- Jean Claude Brialy (left), and Serge Gainsbourg (right)

The side circles, will be replaced by a trapezoidal shape somewhat in the 70s. In addition to make a cleaner volumetric form with no protuberance, It provides a distinct shape to the bus stop, easy to discriminate from the road signs, which are mainly circles, triangles and squares.

The definitive and unmistakable trapezoidal Parisian bus stop shape makes it easy to discriminate among the forest of street signs, more noticeably the road signs (circles, triangle and square). Here The Louvre museum stop in 1983 - credit photo left (4)

Today, the same bus stop (slightly relocated at the time of the renovation of the Louvre in 1983-89), has kept the same form. Modern technology able to provide real time information is integrated into it. The color scheme, green jade, is the one used by the RATP since 91.

Nowadays, the same bus stop, carry all the last technology, including the real time information (those bus stop, manufactured by Moviken/Cromateam, are powered by solar panel) but the shape has not changed- credit photo (3)

The Parisian bus stop has many qualities, well epitomized in the picture below:

bus stop at the Louvre. Visible enough, but neither visually or physically obstructive – credit photo (2)

Thought not all bus stop provide real time information, the 11,000 RATP bus stops are now outfitted with 20,000 QR/flash code [5]

Usually, a Parisian bus stop is not lacking of information -clarity of it may be-. In any case, they all come outfitted with QR code - credit photo left (4) right (5)

Lately, the City of Paris, wanting to go one step forward had launched an idea competition about “smart urban furniture”. One of the winner is the ibus stop:

The ibus stop, by Seolane Innovation, preserves the historic shape of the Parisian bus stop, which prove to be versatile enough to allow integration of new technologies


The Parisian bus stop is so versatile, it is used as a flower pot, by some urban gardener activist.


[1] http://fr.topic-topos.com/potelet-d-arret-sorbonne

[2] Richard Cruttwell

[3] flik ruser tobiwei

[4] www.geo.fr

[5] www.blogencommun.fr

Block 51: the North Plaza

October 26, 2012


This post is assumed closing our historic errand series of the Blocks 51-61-71:

The north Plaza of Block 51 is the square sitting north of the VAG. Thought it is part of the block 51, and more generally of the Block 51/61/71 complex, this square has a life of its own.

After the opening of the second courthouse in 1912, This square will very quickly become the ceremonial Vancouver square. Its location along Georgia street, providing frontage to a preeminent and formal government institution, makes it almost a non brainer:

Mayor James Findlay welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Connaught to a civic reception at the newly-completed Vancouver Court House on 18 September
1912

The early days

  • A first fountain, commissioned to sculptor Charles Marega in 1912, had been installed as a memorial to King Edward VII right along Georgia. It was initially equipped with bronze cups on chains, but these were quickly stolen and never replaced.
  • On august 29, 1913, a flag pole has been erected in the middle of the square. It was said the tallest flag pole in Canada

The Vancouver Court House square

It was apparently a staple to be photographed on the front step of the courthouse,and the Vancouver archive are full of group picture [1]

1966: The Centennial fountain

respecting the formalism of the space, the city idea for the square in 1964 was as pictured below:

1964: City vision for the block 51 north plaza (4)

It happens that W.A.C Bennett had another agenda. He commissioned R. H. Savery (design) and Alex Von Svoboda (sculpture/mosaic) to design an “XXL” fountain, 72’x26′ and 16′ high:

The Savery/Svoboda fountain model, showing the original plan for the plaza

According to [5] quoting an official report: the “symbolic twin-pillar centrepiece” is “meant to represent mankind rising from the sea and depicts gods of Celtic mythology”.

The $250,000 fountain will be controversial right from the beginning, and will be called the secret Bennett Project[5], erected behind blind walls. W.A.C inaugurated it at night, during a rainstorm, after having inaugurated the Grouse tramway, on December 15th, 1966. The semi-private ceremony was perturbed by a so called act of vandalism: someone had poured detergent in the fountain, making huge bubble [4][5]

The old fountain has been put in storage up to 1983, when it has been reinstated along Hornby street.

Vancouver people have never been fond of this fountain [2] and we can give here a couple of keys why:

  • The fountain looks over-sized, in respect of the square size, and more especially the old courthouse building
  • Disregarding aesthetic taste, The chosen Artistic choice, doesn’t pair well with the Neo-classic building

To be sure, the Vancouver administration hasn’t made any effort to improve the fountain setting, and the fact that the today VAG is turning its back on Georgia doesn’t help the matter. More generally we can consider that all the intervention on the Rattenbury’s building after 66 (lobby on ground level, rooftop patio…) are unfortunate acts of vandalism

The Erickson proposal

The Erickson view for this square in 1966, was not much different of the one of the city:

1966 Erickson/Massey Proposal: The view along Howe Street looking south

In his 1973 proposal:

  • It was envisioned as a largely hardsurfaced plaza — adapting itself readily to multiple uses according to [6], but model photography suggest nothing much more than a lawn

This part of the complex design has never been implemented, allowing the Centennial fountain to stay up to today [8].

2009: the VPSN competition
In 2009, the VPSN held a design idea competition, “Where’s the square?”, and one of the co-winner of the “people choice” was HAPA collaborative, with their entry, “red carpet”:

Vancouver Red Carpet – Hapa Collaborative – entry of the 2009 VSPN Where’s the Square Competition

We will find some remarkable analogy with the City Hall 1964 vision, and this HAPA proposal epitomizes quite effectively what is the Vancouver collective conscience and wish for this space. It also shows a remarkably solid consensus overtime on the idealized vision of this square.

2011 The Concert-hall by Bing Thom

On March 4, 2011, The Vancouver Concert Hall and Theatre Society proposed a Bing Thom plan for a 1,950-seat concert hall underneath the existing plaza fronting Georgia Street.


The 2011 Bing thom proposal for an underground concert hall – credit (3)

notice how this vision fits well with the HAPA proposal.


[1] Verbatim of John Atkin intervention at the Block 51 event, a look forward, VAG, Oct. 17, 2012

[2] That includes John Atkin, who even qualified it as too noisy![1]

[3] concerthallcomplex.org

[4] VancouverProvince, December 16th, 1966

[5] VancouverSun, December 16th, 1966

[6] heritage vancouver society newsletter, Volume 17 Number 1, June 2008

[7] Redevelopment in downtown Vancouver : report No 5, City of Vancouver, 1964.

[8] In fact the fountain is excluded of the Block 51 lease agreed between the City and the Province. That along original negotiation line dating back January 1974- (Vancouver City council mn, January 8, 1974)


This post follow up on the history of the Blocks 51-61-71

Prologue: The 70’s at City Hall

The 70’s was years of intense civic engagement worldwide and public interest for civic participation was something city hall, controlled by the NPA for the last previous 40 years, was not prepared to deal with. The Chinatown revolt on the freeway plan in 1967 is something the city hadn’t see coming.
That had eventually lead to the formation of “The Electors Action Movement” (TEAM), and COPE in 1968, which made inroad to the council in 1968 (Philips and Hardwick for TEAM and Rankin for COPE). the four ensuing year, 68-62 was electric ones at city hall. Each development put forward by the administration was supported by the NPA, fought by COPE and TEAM, and ended to be defeated in drama, the apex of it being probably the third Georgia crossing in 1972, resulting in a full blow fiasco for the couplet NPA/administration. The only major project of the time which had been able to move forward was the Eaton center (sic). The NPA and the city administration was so distrusted that the NPA didn’t even present a mayoral candidate in the December 72 election, which was won by the TEAM. The first major decision of the new mayor, Art Phillips, had been to dismiss the director of planning of the time, Gerald Sutton-Brown. other dismissals and administration re-organization was on the TEAM menu leaving a vacuum in the city hall affair

1973

The W.A.C Bennett government is defeated by the NDP, in the Provincial election of August 1972. The Provincial plan for the Vancouver Courthouse is stopped. Naturally (sic), considering his previous work on the site, Erickson will be the architect of choice.
The Premier of the time, Dave Barrett, had said something, Bing Thom, then member of the Erickson’s team, translated as “You need to go fast, because we don’t gonna be reelected” [3]. This and the fate of the aborted previous project was also more than an encouragement to do so.
In the meantime the consequence of the politic turmoil at city-hall, involving many dismissals among civil servants, was leaving a vacuum in the Vancouver civil administration giving the Erickson’s team pretty much free rein on what to do in the city, so allowing a speedy process [3][8] :

Ownership question

As seen before, the Erickson proposal was to locate the provincial offices on block 61 and the court house on block 71, leaving block 51 for civic activities. To move forward with this spatial organization required to resolve some ownership issue:

  • Block 71, including lanes, was sold to the Province for $4.6 millions in 1974
  • Block 51 is leased to the city of Vancouver, by the Province, for $1 per year for 99 years started on August 29th, 1975
  • In return, the city of Vancouver leases street sub-surface and air-space to the Province for 99 years started on August 29th, 1975 [1]. exception are
    • The city own the air-space above Robson
    • The Province can sublease Smythe and Robson sub-surface (it can’t on Howe).

The province was also proposing to install and maintain street furnishing including trees on Robson street, and other detail which could still need to be sorted out.

Civic context

The original 66’s design for the block 51-61-71 could have been built with minimal alteration but two important things had happened in the previous years:

  • Following the freeway revolt, the rapid transit idea was getting steam, especially with Rankin as alderman [9], and a plan for downtown was as illustrated above, which was calling for a rapid transit station at Hornby and Georgia
  • More importantly for the project itself, was the public outcry at the tower, but also the conveyed idea that block 71 could have been a green-space

People didn’t want the tower, but wanted the green-space.

The 1973 Erickson analysis
The city was seen like illustrated below, where Robson Square at the highest point of the peninsula, is not considered at the crossroad, but as a destination in itself [10]:

73 Erickson case analysis of Robson square. It is at the center, but not a connector (notice how Robson and Granville are clearly disjointed)

The concern for the building height and its corollary, shadow, starts to commend the shape of the court house:

73 Erickson case study: Height and global shape of the court house, are assumed to minimize shadow casting

That leaded to the below proposal in late 1973, early 1974:

Overview of the Erickson project in 1974

The city Square (left) is located south of Robson on Block 61 while that the east part receive a sunken plaza (right)

Some striking elements:

  • Robson street is interrupted between Howe and Hornby, both being only connected by a pedestrian passerelle.
  • A sunken Plaza on the East side of the block 51/61, featuring a food court on block 61, and a sculpture garden on the block 51
  • A “city square” on the block 61
  • The north side of the old court house, facing Georgia, is in the original proposal a large reflecting pond. This aspect of the design disappears very quickly -the model above seems to show a lawn- certainly due to the lease term of the block 51, which excluded the Centennial fountain

Those elements will be altered in the subsequent project development, but basically the overall design is already fixed:

The Erickson proposal in 1976

A low profile building, with terraced garden designed by Cornelia Oberlander supposed to emphasizes north-south pedestrian continuity between the blocks with multi-level; pedestrian connections[11]

The thing will be built pretty much as planned. Nevertheless the city took issue with at least three components of the proposal.

The rapid transit station location

  • To accommodate the rapid transit plan of the time, the proposal was provisioning a station access along Hornby on block 51.
  • For some reason, the city didn’t like this idea and was wanting it along block 61. That is what has been built [3]

The Trees

Erickson architects was planning to have London plane trees on Howe and Hornby street, and had purchased them right at the start of the project [13]. While a staple and beloved tree in London, Paris or New-York, the city engineers objected to this species, and provided numerous reports explaining that the Acer rubrum was a better choice. This curious bickering could have passably irritated the Erickson team, but the Acer rubrum has been the planted species

Robson street

Mirroring his fordism view of the city, Erickson was looking at keeping separate the Robson shopping mall (then made of small shops) of the Granville one (then envisioned as the high end fashion mall) [10]:

The bridging of the Robson street shopping area with Granville one was not something seen as desirable in the Erickson view, who was preferring to see them separated - credit (10)

The bus routing was supposed to support this vision:


The center is not seen as at a crossing of major road/arteries, but as a destination. credit (10)

Accordingly, the original vision was calling for an open sunken plaza without at grade connection between Howe and Hornby to de-emphasize Robson. Nevertheless, it was a telecommunication duct below Robson they couldn’t realistically move, also they have choosen to ” hide” it below a pedestrian passerelle [3].

The city engineers didn’t like too much this idea for the reason below [4]:

  • A too narrow strip above the sunken plaza was breaking the continuity of sidewalk along Robson street, and they wanted to preserve the ability to return the traffic in case of the scheme was not working as expected

By early 1974, The province, the city and the architect, AEA, will agree on a bus only connection. Arthur Erickson rationalized the agreement as below:

“The only traffic through the square will be inner city buses, linking the West and and False Creek. Since buses function as people movers, they are seen as a compliment or enhancement to the pedestrian activity of the civic square, whereas the present car traffic would present and irreconcilable conflict.”[12]

  • Robson street was one way street at this time, with a peak transit traffic of 11 bus/hour in the West direction, leaving the transit lanes empty most of the time, what was not seen as a best use of the road space by the city:

The city was calling for foundation allowing a 4 lanes -80 foot- wide street (what has been granted), but was satisfied with the construction of a 3 lanes- 50 foot wide- street (that is the Robson street width between the domes). Another problem at this time was the Connaught bridge (or second Cambie bridge) landing at the foot of Robson at Beatty: the city was pushing its views by painting them as interim, up to a relocation of the Cambie bridge, able to move the traffic away of Robson.

Completion

The defeat of the NDP government in the 1975 general election, by the son of W.A.C bennett, Bill Bennett could have signed the abandon of the project again. Something, Bing Thom among other had worked at avoiding by pleading their case to the new Premier [3]. The Province court will move in the new building on September 6, 1979. The entire complex cost had been reported to be $139 million in 1979 [2]. The Vancouver art gallery will move in a renovated old courthouse building in 1983

The project will have received several awards, more noticeably, It won the American Society of Landscape Architects President’s Award of Excellence in 1979, where the jury commented on the “extraordinary integration of landscape architecture with architecture–consistent and coherent.” Envisioned as a “linear urban park, importing nature into the city“. In 2011, The RAIC architecture jury rewarded Arthur Erickson Architects with the Prix du XXe siècle. The jury had commented

Thanks to its splendid horizontality and its complex system of landscape terrace, pools and waterfalls, this vast urban landmark is able to embody a West Coast sense of space and relationships. Bridging between law and the arts, it epitomizes the urban monument in its highest civic aspiration”

(Amen)


[1] The originally proposed lease was on a 50 years period. it has been extended to 99 years , and starting date choose, to match the lease agreed with the Pacific center.

[2] This day in history: September 6, 1979, VancouverSun, September 6, 1979

[3] Verbatim of Bing Thom intervention at the Block 51 event, a look back, VAG, Oct. 15, 2012

[4] Memorandum to Vancouver city Council, Blocks 51/61/71, November 29, 1973

[5] It was in this post 72 context, that Stanley King came to propose his co-design method, object of the movie chair for lovers

[6] Robson Square, The Canadian Architect, May 2011

[7] Urban Development Standards: The Block 51-61-71 Project, Arthur Erickson, JAE, Vol. 29, No. 3, Canada (Feb., 1976)

[8] It was also an opportunity for Erickson to have the city adopting much of its proposed standards and guidelines [7][3]

[9] see The case for rapid transit in…1970

[10] Development standards case study 1. Arthur Erickson Architects, Vancouver B.C. June 21, 1973

[11] Department report, Vancouver B.C. June 21, 1974

[12] 51-61-71 Project, block 71 Schematics, Arthur Erickson Architects, 1974

[13] Following Erickson recommendation, the Province bought, at apparently discounted price 300 London plane trees which had been over-ordered for the World’s fair in Spokane, WA. Later the city refused to plant them, they have ended on a waterfront promenade in Victoria [14]

[14] Seven Stones, A portrait of Arthur Erickson, Edith Iglauer, University of Washington Press, 1981

Blocks 51-61 and 71 are the ones sitting between Howe and Hornby, and between Georgia and Nelson, numbered from North to South

the early XX centuries

The first courthouse built in Vancouver in 1888, and will be demolished in 1912. It will become Victory square in 1924.

At the turn of the century the court house was located on what is now Victory square. It will be relocated on Georgia in 1912 in the building designed by Francis Mawson Rattenbury. (nowadays house of the VAG). The annex facing Robson will be added in the 30s.[7]

In those days, the building main entrance face a ceremonial square onto Georgia street [1]:

The Vancouver court house circa 1912

.

While the South side seems to use to be a lawn:

The South side of the Vancouver courthouse seems to use to be a lawn


The 50’s

City of Vancouver was eyeing the Block 61 (South of the today VAG), to transform the whole area in a civic center, by relocating noticeably the public library and the BC electric building.

  • An Auditorium is considered for block 61 in 1949
  • After an exhaustive study to select a location for a public space in 1958, block 61 is selected in 1960.

Most of the block 61 is acquired-thru expropriation- by the city by early 1964. At this time Downtown Vancouver is a sea of parking lot:

Aerial view of block 61 and surrounding circa 1964 – credit (2)

The 60’s

The Province had expansion plan for its court house since 1955. The original 1955 plan to add a building on Robson having encountered firm opposition, the Province had acquired the land behind Hotel Vancouver and some parcels on block 61… But in 1963 it was considered critical to add a parking structure to the Hotel Vancouver. a deal was stroke:

  • The Province sold its land north of Hotel Vancouver to the Hotel, for purpose of building a parkade
  • The City sold block 61 to the province, for the court house expansion and other governmental uses, understanding it will also include a civic square

The sale occurred in 1964, and land ownership was then as illustrated below, with Eaton owning block 52 and 71:

Land ownership in 1964 of blocks 51, 61 and surrounding

In 64, the block 51-61 was envisioned as below by the Vancouver city planning department:

1964: City intention for blocks 51-61 according to (4)

The Province was seeing the things slightly differently, with the adding of building on block 51, and some commercial developments:

The Province intention for block 51 and 61 not revealed before April 65 according to (4)

Retail corridors like Hasting were already seriously declining and the city was not seeing commercial development on block 61 as desirable. The city strongly opposed to the Province proposal for this reason.

…At least, it is the story telling of the city brief [4] to be presented in 1965 to the Premier W.A.C Bennett:

The 1964 Redevelopment plan

The redevelopment plans published by the city in 1964 [2] were already integrating an additional building on block 51

Block 51, 61 and surrounding as envisioned by a 1964 city report

The design then considered by the city didn’t seem to consider a major public square. The development of pedestrian precinct, fully segregated from motorist traffic, was considered along the lines below:

Vancouver 1964: considered Pedestrian precinct fully segregated of motor traffic

That said, the city will have the Vancouver art council to commission Arthur Erickson Geoffrey Massey and Bruno Freschi to offer a counter proposal for which we have a specific post:

the 1966 Erickson/Massey proposal

Robson square and the provincial court as originally envisioned by Erickson in its 1966 proposal

Needless to say the Province was decided to move on with its plan leaving the square question open:

1966-1972 : Where is the square?

The Province design was not considered offering an attractive enough space for a civic square. The city approached the Province to buy back block 61 without success. so the city resolved to consider [8]

  • block 71 as a civic square., a then considered very poor alternative.
  • block 42 because it was owned by the city (purchased with the proceed of the block 61 sale).
  • a one block in the area bounded by Hasting, Seymour, Georgia and Hamilton street
  • have scattered open space in the city

And a last alternative, echoing the Erickson 66 proposal:

  • Acquisition of block 51 for a civic space

In the meantime, the city acquired block 71 from Eaton, since the site was considered as suitable for a ‘central’ park, if not a civic square, and could be used to trade with other properties, again echoing the erickson 66 proposal.

The Province, on its side, was busy moving on the new court house:

The Plan in early 1972

The year 1972 starts with the following design, from aprioiri Thompson, Berwick, Pratt and Partners, poised to be built:

the court house at block 51-61

The proposed high-rise, beyond its height, 698feet accomodating 55 storeys, was a 200 feet wide slab tower along Smythe, twice bigger than the Electra building (by the same architect). It was obviously against any by-law; the Province is not legally bind by city by-law; but this was not the major contentious point with the city administration. The proposal have its fair share of oddities:

  • Block 51 and 61 was needed to be zoned commercial
  • No sidewalk was planned on the south side of Robson
  • A 14 feet passageway between the old court house and a new building was planned, to connect it to a 25 feet wide interior court yard
  • The proposal was assuming that the block 71 should be a park, providing an open setting to the tower

While the city engineering department was considering the provided parking space (630), as noticeably insufficient (they were asking for 1200), the civic design panel had considered that “the tower structure itself, is well designed and in an acceptable location” but that the “most important problem is considered the lack of open space separation between the proposed new building and the [old] court house”[6].

…Needless to say the resident had a very different opinion on the slab-tower.

August 30, 1972

The W.A.C bennett government is defeated by the NDP, in the Provincial election: The project is stopped, but it is not the end of the story, to be continued here


all source from [4] unless otherwise noticed


[1] More informal gathering space was at Larwill park, at Georgia and Beatty.

[2] Redevelopment in downtown Vancouver : report No 5, City of Vancouver, 1964.

[4] Block 51 and 61, D.L. 541 City Planning Department, Vancouver BC, June 1965

[6] Memo to Vancouver City council- “BC Centre and court House additions Block 51 and 61″, May 31, 1972

[7] date from [4], Notice that there is a discrepancy with what say Wikipedia

[8] Memo to Vancouver City Council- “A civic square for DownTown Vancouver”, September 22, 1969

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