Xtranormal version of Victoria BC’s Johnson Street Bridge Debate

November 16, 2010 at 11:19 pm | In johnson street bridge, victoria | Comments Off on Xtranormal version of Victoria BC’s Johnson Street Bridge Debate


Maybe the self-styled “chairman of the board” will take a boo. And learn something.

Click on image below or here.

Victoria BC’s Johnson Street Bridge sings

November 9, 2010 at 11:42 pm | In johnson street bridge, victoria | 1 Comment

Really, she does.

I love this video – political activism at its most poetic and poignant.

Wilkinson Eyre’s concept proposal for the New Johnson Street Bridge

October 25, 2010 at 10:37 pm | In johnson street bridge, victoria | 7 Comments

Tonight I took myself to the Victoria Conference Centre to listen to Sebastien Ricard (of Wilkinson Eyre Architects) and Joost Meyboom (latterly VP of Engineering at Delcan, now at MMM) talk about the proposed New Johnson Street Bridge.

Given the scope – more on that in a moment – of the project and what it means for the City of Victoria in terms of expenditure and debt, the event was certainly under-attended. You’d think this would have packed people in – instead, everyone was able to sit well apart from everyone else, which was probably a good thing. There were some people in the audience I really haven’t wanted to get close to since this project got underway, not now, not ever again. These include city staff and politicians, who, in my opinion, are leading Victoria on a fool’s errand. A very expensive fool’s errand.

Sebastien Ricard struck me as a really nice guy, and I don’t doubt that he’s a good architect. But his lengthy slide show of past works consisted almost entirely of pedestrian bridges, whereas what Victoria wants is a multi-modal (car, bicycle, pedestrian, wheelchair/ scooter access – and rail) bridge. The design his firm proposes in answer to these clamoring demands looks superficially snazzy, but actually consists of so many disparate parts – as well as some missing components (rail!) – that it starts to appear clunky.

Yes, clunky.

Sure, there’s a nifty “wheel” (the bascule mechanism) at one end of the bridge (the downtown end) through which pedestrians could traverse. But the cantilevered doo-dads attached to the side of the bridge, and the overly complex system of over- and under-passes designed to satisfy the impossible soup-to-nuts menu that Victoria – or possibly its most ambitious council member – has demanded of the architect unfortunately eliminates all hope for an elegant solution to this crossing.

It needs to be said: this design is a hodgepodge.

It’s a hodgepodge, and if we complain that we currently have “an octopus” of roads at the downtown end of the bridge where a number of roads converge, we will – by the time the new bridge is finished – have an additional octopus of attachments and byways ensnarling the bridge itself.

And Ricard didn’t seem particularly inspired by his own proposal, frankly. He seemed more enthusiastic when he showed us his other efforts – ones that actually got built (I have serious doubts that what he has designed for Victoria will ever see the light of day, at least in the form he showed us tonight): in that part of his slide show – which consisted of simple, elegant solutions offering design affordances in response to a rational set of constraints, as opposed to Victoria’s pie-in-the-sky wish-list – he seemed genuinely confident and engaged. When it came time to run through the slides of the New Johnson Street Bridge proposal, on the other hand, the energy level dropped off significantly.

Perhaps he knows something we don’t – something to do with where this project is heading?

The project has already headed with unparalleled vengeance into scope creep. We have councilor Pamela Madoff to thank for that: it was she who suggested that we need an apples-to-apples comparison, when in fact that comparison was never on the agenda. The people’s question originally was, “do we want a simple repair job or do we want a Cadillac-version of a new bridge?” Madoff ensured that the question of a simple repair job was swept off the council table, replaced instead by the ridiculous scope creep that resulted in “repair” estimates that exceed the estimated cost of a new bridge.

Well, we’ll see what happens on November 20 – that’s when Victoria voters (those of us who bother to vote) decide whether or not the city should be allowed to borrow $49.2million – what will no doubt be a mere fraction of the end cost of the Sebastien Ricard-Joost Meyboom proposal.

PS: Here’s a photo that David Broadland of FOCUS Magazine sent me – it shows how empty the Conference Centre was last night (Mayor Dean Fortin is at the podium, Howard Markson is leaning against the pillar; Sebastien Ricard and Joost Meyboom are seated at the table to the right):

Arresting perspective: Johnson Street Bridge integral to Victoria’s Old Town

July 22, 2010 at 11:28 pm | In architecture, authenticity, heritage, johnson street bridge, victoria | 5 Comments

Victoria British Columbia residents and visitors may have seen the Johnson Street Bridge before from this perspective, looking west down Johnson Street toward the Harbour:


But the arresting perspective seen in Eric Porcher‘s photograph drives home a crucial point. Porcher‘s photo clearly shows that the bridge is absolutely integral to the distinctive fabric of Old Town. Consider how well the industrial structure of the bridge, with its girders, beams, and thousands of rivets, answers the density of architectural detail that Old Town’s street facades offer.

If the Johnson Street Bridge is removed and replaced with a generic new bridge, a significant piece of Victoria’s heritage – what makes it uniquely itself – will be excised and lost forever.

It’s obvious that a destruction of the Johnson Street Bridge equates to a mutilation of Old Town. It’s also obvious that our city council speaks with a forked tongue about heritage and has no shame about hypocrisy.

Victorian? Johnson Street Bridge dot ORG has the survey you need

July 19, 2010 at 11:08 pm | In johnson street bridge, victoria | Comments Off on Victorian? Johnson Street Bridge dot ORG has the survey you need

The City of Victoria has sent surveys to residents, asking for feedback on what we think should be done regarding the Johnson Street Bridge.

My post today is aimed at Victoria British Columbia residents – voters who live in the City of Victoria: Victorians. I’m asking you to visit the latest post on our website, JohnsonStreetBridge.ORG, to read Give Your Feedback to City Hall on the Johnson Street Bridge. Download the additional survey (PDF) that JohnsonStreetBridge.ORG has developed and send it in to City Hall, together with the official survey.

I also recommend that Victoria residents (or other interested folks) take a look at this summary, Johnson Street Bridge project retrospective, part 1 of 2, on Vibrant Victoria. (Full disclosure: it was written by my son, Adam Bahlke, who is working for Skyscraper Source Media this summer; the article is entirely based on the public “Johnson Street Bridge” threads on the Vibrant Victoria forum and reflects the information and sentiments expressed therein. Irrespective of my personal interest in the topic, the article is a sober reflection of what in essence has been a very fraught topic.)

To recap: if you’re a City of Victoria resident, please surf over to the JohnsonStreetBridge.ORG article, Give Your Feedback to City Hall on the Johnson Street Bridge, and carefully read the strategy we’re proposing. Download the PDF and include it with your official City of Victoria survey.


Please tell your fellow Victoria voters, too.

Victoria’s Johnson Street Bridge scandal just keeps going

April 22, 2010 at 10:18 pm | In FOCUS_Magazine, johnson street bridge, local_not_global, politics, scandal, victoria | Comments Off on Victoria’s Johnson Street Bridge scandal just keeps going

It’s mind-boggling. The scandal of how the City of Victoria has tried to bum rush the historic Johnson Street Bridge into oblivion just keeps growing.

If you’re interested in questionable municipal shenanigans as a spectator sport, check out FOCUS Magazine‘s latest issue (May 2010), now available online as a PDF download, and go to page 26, where Sam Williams dissects in excruciating detail the FOIed email exchanges between City of Victoria engineer Mike Lai and his colleagues at Delcan Engineering, specifically Mark Mulvihill.

I am ashamed to live in such a banana republic of a city.

The current council and mayor (imo lame duck, with the exception of Geoff Young); from L to R, standing: Chris Coleman, Phillipe Lucas, Pam Madoff, Dean Fortin, Sonya Chandler, John Luton, Geoff Young; seated: Charlayne Thornton-Joe, Lynn Hunter

Busy blogging elsewhere (mostly about the Johnson Street Bridge)

August 11, 2009 at 10:01 pm | In johnson street bridge, politics, victoria | Comments Off on Busy blogging elsewhere (mostly about the Johnson Street Bridge)

Sorry about the lacunae here, but I’ve been busy blogging on our site, Johnson Street Bridge, where I posted Lovin’ the interwebs: corrections on comparisons tonight; earlier today, I wrote  Johnson Street Bridge news continued… (a ‘curation‘) for MetroCascade; and right after that, a related entry on MetroCascade‘s blog, New curations interface thingy on MetroCascade homepage.

Local Johnson Street Bridge discussion heats up

August 6, 2009 at 10:24 am | In johnson street bridge, politics, victoria | 4 Comments

I’ve been busy over at JohnsonStreetBridge DOT org, the website created by Mat Wright, Ross Crockford, and me. My contributions have run mainly to writing some blog posts and brainstorming with Mat and Ross. The latter produced a brilliant letter, delivered to Mayor and Council on Tuesday. It’s four pages long and asks all the right questions – I encourage interested Victoria-area stakeholders to read it (available as PDF, too).

Mat is brilliantly pulling everything together in his role as webmaster and social media engineer. As a result, the site is looking pretty damn good, if I say so myself. We have links to the blog, to a poll, to subscription to a newsletter, to a photo page, to a culture page, to a history page, a video page, and tons of external links to help people get informed.

There’s now also a link to download PDFs of a beautiful color poster (or, alternately, the same poster in greyscale). The photo is by the talented Benjamin Maddison of Victoria Daily Photo. Thanks, Benjamin!

New site: Johnson Street Bridge DOT org

July 24, 2009 at 2:00 pm | In johnson street bridge, politics, victoria | 2 Comments

I’m involved with Mat Wright and Ross Crockford in a new website, Johnson Street Bridge. Please check it out.

And please take a look at my first blog post there, Bad Reason, 1, subtitled “Bad reasons to spend money on JSB replacement.” I worked up some steam about what I consider bad civic leadership around here, too.

Bottom line regarding my argument in Bad Reason, 1: Whether ugly (“a brute”) or beautiful, the Johnson Street Bridge is interesting – and that’s the most important thing for a creative, urban economy. Just take a look at the amazing photos on Flickr, tagged with johnsonstreetbridge, for an inkling of the bridge’s ability to offer up interestingness.

Nothing is worse than boring – that’s what the suburbs are for. Whatever will replace the Johnson Street Bridge will be massively and blightingly boring, and therefore an affront to Victoria’s urban character.

One wonders why our civic leaders are so intent on suburbanizing this city.

Below, a photo by Victoria flickreena ngawangchodron (hope she doesn’t mind being referenced by me like this, but it’s such an evocative shot):
Photo of Johnson Street Bridge in Victoria BC

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