August 5, 2016
The Paris petite ceinture is a railway ringing Paris, built between 1852 and 1869. It was once well used, before falling in state of abandonment. The last commercial train has been seen in the early 1990, since then questions on how the corridor should be re-use have recurringly arised
2001: The return of the Parisian tramway.
The early 1990, mark the renaissance of the tramway in Europe, and especially in France (5), and quickly enough , many advocates promote the idea of reusing the petite Ceinture to the benefit of such a transportation mode in Paris.
There is effectively a market for this. The parallel transit lines (bus PC on the adjacent Boulevards, called Boulevard des Marechaux, as well as the circular subway line 6. A 1995 study suggests that the line could attract 17,000 passenger per hour for this line once transformed as a surface subway (equivalent to the S-bahn) running at 30km/h…In the meantime an alternative option under study (1) is to upgrade the adjacent bus route into a tramway line with a much lower average speed, 20km/h, and per consequent a lower expected ridership 7,700 to 9,100 passenger per hour, but the later option also provides better connection with the existing subway network, as well as better local service.
The 1995-2006 city council under the right wing mayor JEan Tiberi was leaning toward this latest option, which had the advantage to not introduce new nuisance in a corridor which has became almost a natural reserve , but preferred to delay any hard decisions…so that the reintroduction of the Parisian tramway will be a contentious point of the 2001 municipal election.
The challenger and then long time councilor Betrand Delanoë, and its team had a very clear and articulated position on the tramway, as expressed by its then Transport commissioner, Denis Baupin (Green party):
“ it marks a symbolic stop to a politic favoring the car, […], beside it, its main asset is the requalification of the urban space (5)” (2)
Delanoë is elected in 2001 and the work on the tramway will commence almost immediatly, to get inaugurated in 2006:
Delanoë will be reelected for a second mayoral mandate in 2007, but the question of the use of the petite ceinture has been left open: if not a tram, what use?
2012: The cycling highway idea
Delanoë, is then not seeking a third mandate, and endorse his first Adjoint, Anne Hidalgo. Hidalgo main contender is Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet (nicknamed NKM) coming from the conservative party. The time when the introduction of a bike infrastructure in the city was contentious is already a distant memory in 2012, and the cursor has moved on what kind of cycling infrastructure is the best? NKM proposes to reuse the Petite ceinture platform to implement a supercyle highway ringing Paris.
The idea will be quickly shut down by her main opposants: (3)
It has a geometry disadvantage of not being at grade (either tunnel or viaduct), and offering very few connections with the existing street network, but the main arguments against it are philosophical in nature:
- It creates usage conflict: a cycling highway with bike riding at 20-25km/h is judged not compatible with other use such as purposeless wandering or flanerie
- It goes against the specify of the place, which exhale an unique unkempt atmosphere, slow speed local has grown to appreciate: “timeless”, “uniquely silent”, “mysterious and magic” are common thematic associated with the Petite Ceinture.
- At the end, if one wants to really make the choice of active transportation, this needs to be done at the expense of other transportation mode.
Anne Hidalgo has been elected, and staged progress on the petite ceinture are occurring with the above in mind but with an important constraint: The transportation corridor (still property of the SNCF), need to keep its conversion potential to its former glory, whether the need arises in the future. A design reflecting this constraint supposes to provide a constant reminder to the user of the space of its original usage and potential future one:
It is what is achieved below, with a space accessible to people of all age and ability (4):
(1)it was in fact 2 competitive studies, the Petite ceinture option promoted by the french national railway network (SNCF), owner of the infrastructure, and the Boulevard des Marechaux option, promoted by the Parisian transit operator, RATP.
(2) Face aux lobbies, le tram trace sa voie. Petite ceinture ou Maréchaux, Paris retrouvera le tramway au XXIe siècle, Liberation, April 17th, 1996
(3) Petite ceinture : faire le tour de Paris à vélo et autres fantasmes, rue89, September 25th, 2013
(4) credit for all below pictures to Architecture Urbanisme FR
(5) See our post Transit as part of the urban fabric, October 23, 2012.
November 12, 2013
Most of the below come from Megan Carvell Davis affidavit in . 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 :
Some historical context
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:
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 . The area was then looking like below:
“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.” 
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:
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
- “water lots” 5780 and 5781 granted by the Province of british columbia, on June 12, 1935
- The Centennial Totem pole erected in October 1958, is in the Cypress ROW north of Ogden
- 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 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 . 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 .
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 .
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 .
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:
Main source is the lawsuit filled by Megan Carvell Davis 
 lawsuit filled by Megan-Carvell-Davis-vs-City-of-Vancouver, on Nov 4th, 2013
 park by laws City of Vancouver, Jan 1st, 2008.
 Corporation counsel letter to city, November 20th, 1957, as attached in 
October 15, 2013
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 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 
1998: Full deployment in the fall
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 . 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 , 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
- 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
- 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:
|Oct 1996||8,500 |
|Nov 1996||10,000 |
|1998||16,000 (*) |
(*) The Original BC Transit estimate was 12,000 
Some reasons for the success
It is worth to notice a great emphasis on the marketing side, and its technical limitation  :
- 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 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 time gain is especially consequent (up to 40% time gain)
- 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
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
 TCRP Program report 65: Evaluation of Bus Bulbs, National Academy press, Washington D.C., 2001
 Vancouver’s BLine Experience, Jeffrey Busby, TRB Annual Meeting 13 January 2013.
 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
 “Planning of Vancouver’s Transit Network with an Operations-Based Model“, Ian Fisher, May 1 2009, Translink
 “Bus System Performance Review”. May 31, 2012 – Translink
July 2, 2013
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 :
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 , 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
- Minimize unecessary transfers
- Minimal walking distance to final destinations
(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)
(3) Use the downtown grid for “random schedule” transfers
(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  to support the idea of bringing together the transit network with the pedestrian area 
(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:
- The choice of the streets is guided by principle (4)
- 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 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 […]
- 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 advent of the Canada line kind of fullfill this vision.
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.
 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)
 the underlying concept had been drafted by Harry Rankin by 1970, see The Case for Rapid Transit…in 1970
 The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs, Random House, New York, 1961
 51-61-71 Project, block 71 Schematics, Arthur Erickson Architects, 1974
 Vancouver’s 1975 downtown transit plan, John Calimenete, April 7, 2010
 This view is echoed by Jan Gehl, among others, providing rational for Transit on Sydney’s George Street.
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:
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:
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.
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.
The Parisian bus stop has many qualities, well epitomized in the picture below:
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:
 flik ruser tobiwei
October 26, 2012
This post is closing our historic errand series of the Blocks 51-61-71:
- The Provincial Court House or Block 51-61-71 History up to 1972
- The Provincial Court House or Block 51-61-71 History after 1972: The Erickson years
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:
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
It was apparently a staple to be photographed on the front step of the courthouse,and the Vancouver archive are full of group picture 
1966: The Centennial fountain
respecting the formalism of the space, the city idea for the square in 1964 was as pictured below:
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:
According to  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, 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 
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  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:
In his 1973 proposal:
- It was envisioned as a largely hardsurfaced plaza — adapting itself readily to multiple uses according to , 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 .
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”:
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.
notice how this vision fits well with the HAPA proposal.
 Verbatim of John Atkin intervention at the Block 51 event, a look forward, VAG, Oct. 17, 2012
 That includes John Atkin, who even qualified it as too noisy!
 VancouverProvince, December 16th, 1966
 heritage vancouver society newsletter, Volume 17 Number 1, June 2008
 Redevelopment in downtown Vancouver : report No 5, City of Vancouver, 1964.
 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)
October 25, 2012
This post follow up on the history of the Blocks 51-61-71
- The Provincial Court House or Block 51-61-71 History Part 1 (~1900 to 1972)
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
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” . 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  :
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 . 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.
- Following the freeway revolt, the rapid transit idea was getting steam, especially with Rankin as alderman , 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 :
The concern for the building height and its corollary, shadow, starts to commend the shape of the court house:
That leaded to the below proposal in late 1973, early 1974:
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 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 
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 . 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
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) :
The bus routing was supposed to support this vision:
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 .
The city engineers didn’t like too much this idea for the reason below :
- 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 Westend 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.”
- 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.
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 . 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 . 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”
 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.
 This day in history: September 6, 1979, VancouverSun, September 6, 1979
 Verbatim of Bing Thom intervention at the Block 51 event, a look back, VAG, Oct. 15, 2012
 Memorandum to Vancouver city Council, Blocks 51/61/71, November 29, 1973
 It was in this post 72 context, that Stanley King came to propose his co-design method, object of the movie chair for lovers
 Robson Square, The Canadian Architect, May 2011
 Urban Development Standards: The Block 51-61-71 Project, Arthur Erickson, JAE, Vol. 29, No. 3, Canada (Feb., 1976)
 Development standards case study 1. Arthur Erickson Architects, Vancouver B.C. June 21, 1973
 Department report, Vancouver B.C. June 21, 1974
 51-61-71 Project, block 71 Schematics, Arthur Erickson Architects, 1974
 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 
 Seven Stones, A portrait of Arthur Erickson, Edith Iglauer, University of Washington Press, 1981