Advocacy, education and outreach in support of Vancouver's public spaces

By vancouverpublicspace

November 26, 2010 at 10:00 AM

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VPSN News and Update – 26 November 2010

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Public Space Action:

  • Expanding Robson Square – Your Help Needed!

Public Space Ideas:

  • Your favourite examples of public space animation?


  • 350 Earth Art Event – Nice Footwork!

Get Involved – Project Meetings:

  • December 1 – Volunteer Orientation Meeting
  • December 6 – Urban Design Backgrounder Meeting
  • December 7 – Transportation Issues Meeting
  • December 13 – Public Space & Public Health Project Meeting

Recent Public Space Blog Articles

  • November 24 – Cold Weather Public Space
  • November 18 – City looks to takes strides on pedestrian safety
  • November 17 – Tips for making Vancouver a more walkable city
  • November 11 – Have your say on the Park Board’s proposed 2011 Operating Budget
  • November 1 – More ATVs for Vancouver beaches?
  • October 30 – Halloween Seabus Party – Ghoulishly Excellent!


Expanding Robson Square – Your Help Needed!

Next Tuesday, November 30, a very important public space motion will be debated at City Council. We need your help with making some very positive noise about this one.

Councillor Suzanne Anton is introducing a motion to expand Robson Square by closing down Robson Street between Howe and Hornby. This would, in effect, pedestrianize the entire south side of the Art Gallery block and turn it into a larger public gathering place. For proponents of a downtown public square this is an extraordinary opportunity. And given that the site is currently closed off because of other construction, the timing is excellent.

The specific text of the motion requests that:

“[City] staff consult with interested parties, including the general public, TransLink, the Downtown Vancouver BIA, the Robson Street BIA, the Art Gallery, and the Province of BC to consider the feasibility of creating a major public square at the 800 Robson Street, with a permanent closure of the street in that block.”

The VPSN is 100% supportive of this motion. For those of you who have been following our work with the Where’s the Square? initiative will know that we’ve long had our eye on this space (as did many of the designers who submitted plans during our ideas competition). The south end of the VAG is the natural spot for a grand gathering place in the downtown, and the present motion would provide a fantastic opportunity to enhance an already vital public space, making it more accessible, more people-friendly and more vibrant than it already is.

We believe that this motion supports the efforts and interests of all three political parties represented at City Council. It presents an chance to take a positive step forward on a number of fronts. Public gathering places of this sort play an important role in supporting urban sustainability, public health and the local economy.

We need your help to make this happen! Please take a few minutes to contact City Council to let them know that they favour such a motion. A quick letter or email will make all the difference. Consider doing one of the following:

(1) Write to Mayor and Council and ask them to support the motion to permanently close Robson Street (between Hornby and Howe) and turn it into a public square. By post: Mayor Gregor Robertson and Members of Council, City of Vancouver, 453 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver, BC, V5Y 1V4. By email: mayorandcouncil [at] You can also send it to each of the councillors individually: [firstname].[lastname] NOTE: Try to get your letter in as soon as possible.

If you want to write to specific members of Council you can also check out this page.

Please consider copying us on your correspondence – urbandesign [at]

(2) Make a brief presentation to Council. If you have the time to present your thoughts in person, consider getting on the speakers list by contacting the City Clerk’s office. Phone: 604.873.7276. Email: mayorandcouncil [at]

Note: The motion will likely be referred to one of the Standing Committees of Council on Thursday, December 2. If you want to speak in person, plan on attending Thursday. The Clerk’s office will provide you more details.

(3) Pass the word on. Please let your friends, family and colleagues know about this important motion.


Your favourite examples of public space animation?

Hey, you’ve seen some cool stuff take place in public space, haven’t you? That crazy public art thing that you encountered on your travels? The book market where you scored that awesome novel that changed your life? The spontaneous flash mob gig that your friends dragged you to? That mardi-gras style street festival where you met those weird-but-friendly tourists who turned out to be so much fun? Ah yes, good public space memories! Good public space.

The VPSN is putting together a presentation of case studies and photo-imagery of the coolest public space animation, urban interventions, and used of city space that we can find. We’ve got examples we like to use… but we’re sure you all have some equally awesome ones that you like as well. Actually, we’re hoping that you might be able to share them with us.

What we’re looking for: Photos or illustrations of cool public space interventions and animations from your travels at home or abroad. Also, a brief description – a sentence or two – of where the photo was taken and what it’s of. We’ll credit you for your masterful documentation skills as part of our work.

:: Please send any images to andrew [at]


350 Earth Art Event – Nice Footwork!

The Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN) recently had the opportunity to join some 20 other cities across the world taking part in’s EARTH art project — creating a public art piece that speaks to the scale of the challenge we are facing with climate change. As part of an awareness raising venture linked to the upcoming climate negotiations in Cancun, struck a deal with a satellite company to take photos of each city’s art piece from 480 miles above the earth’s surface!

The VPSN teamed up with local artists, Josh Hite and Justine Chambers, who shared an interest in the 350 Earth message, and came up with the concept of a giant footprint – one that might just be large enough to be seen from space.

The footprint concept touches a number of themes that are closely tied to the issue of climate change: The image is a visual pun on the concept of an ‘ecological footprint’ – a concept that was developed at UBC and coined by Bill Rees in 1992, as a means of estimating one’s total demand of ecological resources. The art piece was conceived as a ‘shoe print’, and not a bare foot, to reflect the fact that we are living and acting in an urban environment, and that it is in this way that we leave a distinct mark in our wake.

A big thank you to the 100+ volunteers that joined us at David Lam Park on an unseasonably cold and snowy morning last weekend to help with the project. While the satellite had some difficulty penetrating the clouds, we got some awesome aerial photographs from both the nearby condo towers and from a float plane that did a fly-by for us.

:: Check out the images on the VPSN Flickr page


December 1 – Volunteer Orientation

A monthly orientation meeting about the VPSN’s mission, what we do, and how we do it. Open to the public. Takes place at SFU Harbour Centre, 515 West Hastings St.

:: RSVP to erin [at] to receive room information

December 6 – Urban Design Backgrounder Meeting

Our last Urban Design Working Group meeting was a roaring success. One of the outcomes of that session was a follow-up gathering for volunteers who are specifically interested in working on one of our foundation documents/backgrounders on urban design and public space, or, one of upcoming position papers on current urban design ‘issues’. If you have a knack for research or writing, consider coming out to this session and lending a hand.

:: To RSVP and get meeting details – scott [at]

December 7 – Transportation Issues Meeting

It’s been a while since we’ve had a Transportation Working Group meeting that convened folks interested in walking, biking, public transit and more. This is it! If you’ve got interests in any or all of the aforementioned issues, or ideas about other connections between transportation and public space, please join us as we brainstorm some new projects and reenergize some of our current work

:: To RSVP – demian [at]

December 13 – Public Space & Public Health Project Meeting

The VPSN has recently assembled a project team of volunteers who are interested in the connection(s) between public health and public space. Part of our work will be scoping out and developing a set of backgrounders to explore the points of overlap between these areas, as well as other advocacy materials and creative activities to help promote a healthy urban environment.

:: For meeting details or more info – andrew [at]


November 24 – Cold Weather Public Space
The last few days have seen the mercury drop to a near-record cold in this city. Not the sort of cold that phases folks from Calgary, Montreal or other parts of the country, but chilly enough to cause some locals the sort of pained expression normally reserved for a Leafs game or discussions of Tea Party politics….

November 18 – City looks to takes strides on pedestrian safety
A well-designed pedestrian environment improves public health, and public safety, increases the animation of public space, and improves the overall sustainability of the city. For these and other reasons, we were pleased to see Mayor Gregor Robertson introduce a motion at last Tuesday’s Council Meeting calling for improved safety for pedestrians.

November 17 – Tips for making Vancouver a more walkable city
Last month a few members of VPSN attended a seminar entitled “Walking the Talk” that was facilitated by Walk21′s Dr. Rodney Tolley. Dr. Tolley is one of the giants in sustainable transportation research and has written a number of influential articles and books such as “The Greening of Urban Transport: Planning for Walking and Cycling in Western Cities” which is well worth a read!

November 11 – Have your say on the Park Board’s proposed 2011 Operating Budget
The Parks Board has published the proposed changes for their 2011 Fees and Charges (with appendix) to help balance the city’s projected $20 million deficit. There is a general 4 per cent increase across the board to all fees and charges, which translates to increased admission and usage charges…

November 1 – More ATVs for Vancouver beaches?
All things considered, Vancouver’s beaches are pretty safe spaces. They’re particularly well used during the summer months, and the actual layout of the spaces – wide tracts of sunny sand – enables a form of natural person-to-person surveillance. Folks people watch and look at — and out — for one another. Had she been asked, Jane Jacobs might have called the formula “eyes on the beach.”

October 30 – Halloween Seabus Party – Ghoulishly Excellent!
Tonight’s iteration of the annual event saw us animate the Seabus for a ride over to North Vancouver, wander over to the amazing new public pier for a dance party, and then return to Vancouver. Two hours of condensed public space excitement for the low price of a single-zone transit ticket.

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