The Viaducts Competition

December 5, 2011

This post refers to the Vancouver viaduct competition occurred in November 2011

Death to the viaducts is the jury sentence. The winner of both the jury and People choice, stealing the spotlights, is the entry 71:

The best we can do according to the jury and Public which have given a plebiscite to entry 71

The Jury, adverses to any viaduct views, choose some other entries which if not eliminating the viaduct like 71, or building a crypt to its remnants (nice attention from entry 113), was either burrying them-and all the local street network-under a huge tumulus segregating the historic precinct of False Creek (entry 111), or hidding it away in an canvas like composition, seen from an improbable point from the sky (entry 72), or not showing at all what could be done with them or their land (entry 138) – N.B. the goal of the competition was to “visualize the viaducts or the land they occupied” … The only rewarded entry showing a viaduct is the entry 72:

The Jury has been thrilled by how the space below the viaduct has been made more engaging by entry 72. Beside the Banksy's Graffiti, notice also how this entry seeks to negate the viaducts structure by a kind of Magritte style treatment of it

An unsuccesful entry

Entry 109 , focusing more at removing the barrier effect, than the viaduct themselves- the real physical barrier being obviously the Skytrain guideway-reflects my previously stated position on the viaducts.

a bird view of the site as proposed by entry 109

Entry 109 put the traffic (“blood” of the city) front and center, and emphasis on the following values:

  • Reconnect Chinatown to the rest of the urban Fabric
  • Currently Chinatown is cut from the rest of the city, West by the Andy Livingstone park, and South by the bridges (as well as Thornton park and the Skytrain viaduct…it is simply too much of urban discontinuity to invite people to Chinatown), the entry suggests building lined streets along Keefer and more importantly Main. That motivates the removal of the Main overpass.

  • Open Gastown and Chinatown to the False Creek shore
  • The entry introduces a canal in the Carral street axis to that purpose (then people can go straight toward the shore, passing below the skytrain guideway, along the Canal). other North/South streets are extended up to pacific Boulevard.

  • And more generally, keep the seawall open to the city by locating the development on the edge of the site
  • rather than along the shore

  • …and respect the View cone policy
  • In the case of the viaducts area, the view cone policy mainly protects perspectives from South East False Creek which also can help to prevent a disastrous “toilet bowl” effect on the False creek basin

  • Develop Georgia street as a “ceremonial” street ending on the false creek basin in the Science world axis.
  • That certainly motivates the removal of the Georgia viaduct, if you want Georgia street to be an urban boulevard with traffic going down to Pacific Street what is advisable to preserve its urban feel

  • Provide a pleasant urban street feeling basically everywhere
  • That motivates a realignment of the Expo boulevard, to enable it to be lined by building on its south side rather than to be defined by the Skytrain guideway, avoiding the problem seen on Lougheed Boulevard in Burnaby or Number 3 road in Richmond.

  • Don’t compromise East West connection

There is no clear motivation to remove the Dunsmuir viaduct. From an urban viewpoint it basically adds nothing, since you are still left with the Skytrain guideway barrier, and eventually have even a negative outcome, since you end up to have at best a very clumsy landing of Dunsmuir somwehere either on Expo or Pacific boulevard, (which also end-up to relocate the viaduct structure more than removing it)…or worst, a dead end Dunsmuir street accompanied by a lost of a gentle grade access to downtown. At the end you have to consider the positive side of a viaduct asset: it can be seen as a balcony on the “urban theatre” as described in the entry 109…and a treatment of this asset under this light is suggested in this entry.

Unfortunately, the values expressed by entry 109 were not shared by the jury which had another motivation in mind.

A provocative idea I should have eventually submitted: "it is not the viaducts we should bury !" The picture speaks enough of an efficient use of landscape freeing prime real estate at Mountain View.

2 Responses to “The Viaducts Competition”

  1. Adam Fitch Says:

    I submitted a concept to the ideas competition, and I also attended the awards ceremony/discussion forum. There were many great ideas submitted, and the quality of presentation was superb. I would encourage everyone interested in development in Vancouver to view the submissions at:

    I do not agree with those who say that a Highline Park or Promenade Plantee concept will not work for the Vancouver viaducts because the physical context is different. Yes, the physical context is different; the viaducts are not as historic, and there is not nearly the same built form of nearby buildings. But, Vancouver’s viaducts also have some great advantages over the Highline and the PromPlantee.

    they are bigger, thus there is more room to do interesting things and programs with them.

    They are near the water – great views for users.

    they are more modern and robust: could accomodate multiple uses and upgrades, including water features.

    The area is almost a clean slate; thus, converting one or both of the viaducts into recreational promenades could act as a huge catalyst to development.

    This would be financial advantage in redeveloping the area. Whereas, removing them is simply a huge cost. Not only the acutual cost of removing them, but the time involved, the cost to citizens to find new ways to get into and out of the downtown, and the costs of all the political machinations to arrive at such a point.

    I say the most realistic option is to keep them and repurpose them. Many things can be done under them to animate the area.

    I recommend people view Submission #38, among others.

  2. Voony Says:

    “Vancouver’s viaducts also have some great advantages over the Highline and the PromPlantee[…]. They are near the water – great views for users.”

    Absolutely…it is one of the asset provided by the viaduct…people naturally like elevated vantage view point and the viaducts provide.
    In Hong Kong, they have built a passerelle especially for that purpose while in Nice, an elevated promenade has been built a long time ago…Notice that the above mentioned proposal (#109) also leverage on this “promenade” aspect of the viaduct
    (that is not necessarily correlated to the fact that a viaduct needs to be transformed in a full blow “promenade plantee”: it just needs to be more pedestrian friendly).

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