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


March 11, 2016 at 8:23 PM

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Public Space: The Living Room in Your Future Home

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Got plans for the weekend? How about a trip to the Museum of Vancouver to explore the city and its possible futures. The VPSN’s Mitchell Reardon takes a look at the latest MOV program and its focus on the public realm.

A new exhibition, created in collaboration by the Urbanarium and Museum of Vancouver, is encouraging Vancouverites to think about the future of the city and to reflect on the role, meaning and value of public space.

Your Future Home: Creating the New Vancouver contributes compelling information and interesting perspectives to the discussion around Vancouver’s future. As one of the four thematic cornerstones of the exhibition (along with residential density, housing affordability and transportation), public space figures prominently in the effort to create a new Vancouver. Public space also benefits from a refreshing treatment in the exhibition that provokes a number of important considerations.

Good information is essential to informed opinions. Your Future Home starts visitors off on the right foot with some basic facts about public space in the city (city policy aims for 2.75 acres of park per 1000 residents, for instance) and a digital map showing the different types and locations of public space that exist in Vancouver.

Vancouver public space

Underlining the fact that the city is not static, the exhibition also digs into the stories behind the transformations of some of the city’s most valued spaces, such as Hastings Park and Granville Island. Interesting in their own right, the notion that these stories could catalyze the next generation of interventions by engaged residents is particularly exciting.

With an emphasis on the central role that Vancouver’s people play in shaping the city, the exhibition offers a number of opportunities for visitors to make their mark. Got a great public space design idea? Grab one of the micro-scale scenarios and get drawing. Looking for a better understanding of how Vancouverites view the city’s public spaces? Use the Some Questions of Public Space guidebook to interview friends and fellow visitors. Looking for inspiration to enhance a special space in your neighbourhood? Check out the installations celebrating the essential contributions regular people have made to help craft Vancouver as one of the world’s most livable cities.

Some questions on Public Space

Showcasing “Vancouver’s smallest public park” (a 3 foot by 3 foot astro-turf adorned box) and a model of movable public space, Your Future Home challenges visitors to reflect on their conceptions of public space and how they could change in the years to come. Encouraging visitors to look skyward and arguing that the open air between buildings constitutes public space, the exhibition advances key questions about ownership and public rights. This approach also encourages visitors to reflect on the contextual nature of public space. Does the space between buildings mean the same thing in a city without a stunning backdrop like the North Shore Mountains? And by asking questions like, “will more public space make us happier?” (subtly pushing visitors to question whether less public space would make us sadder) Your Future Home frames the value of public space in terms of basic emotions.

FullSizeRender (6)

While the exhibit creates almost as many questions as it answers, it’s clear that whatever the Vancouver of the future looks like, public space will be prominently featured.The event has already stirred thinking on the subject, and several projects – including a proposal by HCMA Architecture for a “Coal Harbour Deck” – have been featured in local media.


Your Future Home: Creating the New Vancouver is at MOV until May 15, 2016.

- Story and photos by Mitchell Reardon. Mitchell is a principle at Metropolitan Collective and a volunteer with the VPSN and Urbanarium. Follow him on twitter via @MitchellReardon

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