Archive for December, 2007

As this article in the New York Times discusses, the complexity of issues such as global warming is requiring a whole new approach from academia:

Take what’s happening at the Rochester Institute of Technology. In September the school established the Golisano Institute for Sustainability, aimed at getting students and professors from different disciplines to collaborate in studying the environmental ramifications of production and consumption.

“The academic tradition is to let one discipline dominate new programs,” said Nabil Nasr, the institute’s director. “But the problem of sustainability cuts across economics, social elements, engineering, everything. It simply cannot be solved by one discipline, or even by coupling two disciplines.” …

So more universities are setting up stand-alone centers that offer neutral ground on which engineering students can work on alternative fuels while business students calculate the economics of those fuels and political science majors figure how to make the fuels palatable to governments in both developing nations and America’s states.

[Full article here]

The approach described involves setting up stand-alone centres within existing schools.  At the City Program, we’re cworking with the Centre for Sustainable Community Development to create a new certificate program that will bring instructors from the private and public sectors together to teach the latest practical information on sustainability that professionals today will need. 

It’s a slightly different approach but it’s based on the same principle: collaboration.


December 27, 2007 at 11:21 am Leave a comment

Save the Dates

Put February 1 in your calendar (7 pm, SFU Harbour Centre) if you care about the state of Vancouver’s architecture.  That evening, some of this city’s prominent voices (including Planning Director Brent Toderian and architectural critic Trevor Boddy) will weigh in on the debate that occupies, for instance, the front page of today’s New York Times ‘Week in Review’:

Let the ‘Starchitects’ Work All the Angles

By Nicolai Ouroussoff

IT’S hard to pinpoint when the “starchitect” became an object of ridicule. The term is a favorite of churlish commentators, who use it to mock architects whose increasingly flamboyant buildings, in their minds, are more about fashion and money than function….

But in general I find these attacks perplexing. For decades, the public complained about the bland, soul-sapping buildings churned out by anonymous corporate offices. Meanwhile, our greatest architectural talents labored in near obscurity, quietly refining their craft in university studios and competitions that rarely led to real commissions. …

Today these architects, many of them in their 60s and 70s, are finally getting to test those visions in everyday life, often on a grand scale. What followed has been one of the most exhilarating periods in recent architectural history. For every superficial expression of a culture obsessed with novelty, you can point to a work of blazing originality.

Full article here.

And while your calendar is open, include January 16 at the Four Seasons Hotel.  Planner/architect Andres Duany will be speaking that evening in an SFU City Program-hosted event.

December 16, 2007 at 10:07 am Leave a comment

City Planning Director Brent Toderian has sent along a book review:


In Architecture of the Absurd, John Silber dares to peek behind the curtain of “genius” architects and expose their willful disdain for their clients, their budgets, and the people who live or work inside their creations. Absurdism in a painting or sculpture is one thing: if it’s not to your taste, you don’t have to look.  But absurdism in buildings represents a blatant disregard for the needs of the building, whether it be a student center, music hall, or corporate headquarters.

Brent likely meant to add another provocation to the discussion of “iconic architecture” (and Vancouver’s presumed lack of same) when we bring together a City Program panel to discuss the issue on February 1 at SFU Harbour Centre at 7 pm

Along with an update on the City’s Design Studio, that will be the start of next year’s ‘Paradise Makers’ series on the first Friday of each month.

December 11, 2007 at 9:29 am Leave a comment

The Downtown Memory Project

From our colleagues in the little pods across the way:

The Harbour Centre

Place evokes memory. Even places that may be new to us evoke memories of places that we’ve inhabited at another time in our life. For instance, you might walk along Pender Street and a whiff of food, or the look of a particular storefront will transport you to a previous experience.

You are invited to write about your memory of downtown Vancouver: a building,a street, a person, or a neighbourhood that is or was significant to your life.

Downtown Vancouver, from Burrard Street on the west to Main Street on the east, False Creek on the south to the Burrard Inlet on the north, is an area that has been built and re-built over the past one hundred plus years. People who have lived within that boundary, or worked in the downtown have built up memory of the place. You may have memories of something that shaped your life, or provoked a transition for you. You might simply remember a building youworked in that still evokes strong emotion for you.

Submit approximately 250 words (maximum 300 words). You may also attach photographs or artwork (not original because these will not be returned).


December 10, 2007 at 3:35 pm Leave a comment

Von Hausen Wins Awards

Michael von Hausen, our curriculum coordinator for the Urban Design Certificate, (along with other partner firms and clients) received two prestigious awards in October 2007.

The 2007 Master Planned Community Award of Excellence by the Urban Development Institute, Pacific Region for Garrison Crossing, a 60 hectare former Canadian Forces base in Chilliwack, British Columbia.

MvH 1

The 2007 Award of Planning Excellence from the Alberta Association, Canadian Institute of Planners for the Liberty Crossing at Gasoline Alley Urban Design Plan. The farsighted plan for 400 hectares will be the home for 5,000 to 8,000 residents. The awards committee comments included: “Excellent application of design skills and creative thinking for a difficult area.”

MvH 2

December 5, 2007 at 9:49 am Leave a comment