…arguably the largest public greenspace in New York City in 100 years

October 22, 2007 at 12:17 pm | In cities | Comments Off on …arguably the largest public greenspace in New York City in 100 years

Don’t be scared by the German title in the link — it’s a video narrated in English, about an elevated train trestle in NYC…

A five minute video report (in English) about Edward Norton and the group “Friends of the High Line,” a 2-kilometre long elevated train trestle, abandoned for decades, which the “Friends,” via extensive community activism, managed to convert into “arguably the largest public greenspace in New York City in 100 years.” It’s due to open in 2008.

» New York: Eine Hochbahnstrecke wird zum städtischen Park – architekturvideo.de – Das Video-Blog für Architektur, Stadtplanung und Immobilien

Must read for urbanists

October 22, 2007 at 12:13 pm | In cities | Comments Off on Must read for urbanists

Via CEOs for Cities blog:

Originally published in the book “Block by Block: Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York,” coinciding with the exhibition “Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York,” at the Municipal Art Society, September 25th 2007 – January 5th 2008.:

AndrewBlum.net: Local Cities, Global Problems: Jane Jacobs in an Age of Global Change

On the trail of Richard Florida, who said…

October 22, 2007 at 12:08 pm | In arts, cities, innovation, links | Comments Off on On the trail of Richard Florida, who said…

…that creativity is revolutionizing the global economy. What Canadian cities have trouble with, however, is their tutelage to senior levels of government. Canadian cities are wholly the creatures of the Provinces and aside from property taxes can’t raise their own capital.

Read the following article by Lance Carlson, who proposes overcoming that hurdle through enlightened provincial leadership (article via the Edmonton Journal):

Creativity, innovation key to unlocking potential


Creativity and innovation are the answer to many of the challenges we face and the key to unlocking our potential. We want creative and innovative people in our businesses and non-profit organizations; governments need to find innovative answers to pressing issues, and we are hopeful that our children will learn the art of being creative as they move through our education system.

Innovation, although often used interchangeably with creativity, is not the same thing. Creativity is a human trait, whereas innovation is an improvement in the way we do things. Alberta needs more of both.

Unfortunately, we often think that only “special” people are creative and innovative. In fact, the evidence surrounding creativity and innovation tells us that virtually everyone possesses these abilities.


To truly invest in creativity and innovation, we have to understand that our resources should leverage the very principles of creativity and innovation. There are three things that we can do to make this happen.

First, collaboration and interaction are needed for new ideas to be translated into original actions. The myth of the singular, brooding creative genius who works in isolation is indeed a legend, as most research tells us that profound innovations typically emerge from social interaction and collaboration. We must facilitate the ability of the population to interact and engage in alliances so that “experts” are in dialogue with the general public, and members of the public with one another.


…we should eradicate barriers to innovation by identifying government policies that may discourage entrepreneurial activity. This might mean the reconfiguration of silo-like government ministries and agencies that actually work against imaginative solutions. The bureaucracy should be redesigned around a provincial vision for innovation, creativity and imagination that rejects the traditional approach of assigning responsibilities to departments based on a conventional understanding of specific functions.

Lance Carlson, who gets it, is president of the Alberta College of Art and Design.


October 22, 2007 at 12:04 pm | In facebook, housekeeping | Comments Off on Updates

I spend too much time on a local forum, where I post many items, and I spend quite a bit of time on Facebook, to which I also post interesting items I come across. Between those two opportunities, plus the minimally paid work (writing) I do, I find that my poor blog is being neglected.

Well, here’s the deal: until I get around to writing longer posts here, I’m going to use my diigo account to blog the same items I post to my other digital playgrounds. That way, the old place will at least have some semblance of life!

More updates soon…

October 4, 2007 at 10:06 am | In arts, canada, cities, housekeeping, social_critique | Comments Off on More updates soon…

Too many things on the agenda, and a looming computer-allergy as a result: the combined effect is that I’m once again behind on my “hope to do/ blue sky” list.

One of those to-do items includes posting more of my FOCUS Magazine articles (in PDF) to the link here, just above my about page (see sidebar) . Well, October’s article about the Belleville Street Terminal “renovation” is out, and I do plan to add it later today — and also add some of the earlier months still outstanding.

Meanwhile, I sent my first-ever letter to the National Post, and it was published! Slightly abbreviated, but still. The article I responded to was by Robert Fulford, entitled To the Turnstiles! (Oct. 2) — great article that leads with the question, “Should the public pay to visit museums? It’s a question rarely asked in Canada…” Go read the whole thing. The next day, the National Post published J. Kelly Nestruck’s Price To Peep At Pepys? Pfffft!, a good follow-up.

My letter is on this page in today’s National Post, and it reads:


Museums: an invaluable part of our national fabric


National Post

Published: Thursday, October 04, 2007

I moved back to Victoria some years ago and was shocked to realize that the Royal B.C. Museum (RBCM) now charges a hefty admission fee. When I lived here as a kid 30 years ago, the museum was free, which meant that I was free to wander into its galleries regularly to indulge my interests. I didn’t need to make a “special day” of it or cajole my parents into spending money they didn’t have, and consequently, the threshold for culture was level with my day-to-day life. It wasn’t something I had difficulty crossing.

Curiously, I ended up earning a PhD in art history at Harvard. I won’t say it was because of the RBCM, but I can’t help wondering how many Canadian kids today are cut out of the experience of culture because we keep it hidden behind a turnstile. By charging admission to collections that effectively already belong to us, museums are double-dipping into the public’s purse.

Yule Heibel, Victoria.

The editor took out a couple of sentences, for the sake of brevity. Understandable, but I’ll add them here:

After the first paragraph (which ends with the word “crossing”), I wrote: “I didn’t need to rely exclusively on a peer culture for entertainment, or hang out at the mall. Unhurried, I could go to the museum, and take my time absorbing its offerings.” What I meant by that I had a free venue that was public, but in which I could be an oddball (a museum-goer, gasp!). I didn’t need to be part of a group, or herd.

After the last bit in the published letter, I added my concerns around infrastructure funding. What I wrote was this: “…museums are also double-dipping into the public’s purse. I guess this is what ‘downloading’ is all about, with Joe or Jane Public at the very bottom of that particular food chain. But as Fulford notes, maybe it’s time to call the politicians to heel and impress upon them that free admission should be the norm.”

That last bit references a key concern of mine at present: municipal infrastructure funding. Perhaps more on that later, but let me just say that I also believe that the arts are part of a society’s — and particularly a city’s — infrastructure. All municipal infrastructure needs proper funding.

Disney comment on Victoria: “you would swear you were in England”

October 3, 2007 at 11:14 am | In architecture, authenticity, canada, cities, heritage, innovation, media, public_relations, victoria | Comments Off on Disney comment on Victoria: “you would swear you were in England”

It seems the Canadian Pavilion at the Epcot Center (in Orlando, Fla.’s Disney World) has a new version of “O Canada,” the promotional film for this country. According to an article in today’s paper (Ottawa feeling underexposed in Disney’s new Epcot film), Ottawa is ticked off that it rates barely a mention.

But how would you like to be Victoria, narrated along the lines of “you would swear you were in England”?

There are two YouTube clips available to view the “First Official Screening” of the new & improved version of “O Canada”:

Part One (nearly 10 minutes, with the first 5 1/2 minutes taken up by an intro; at around 6 minutes the actual film starts, with Martin Short): this link to view
Part Two (another 10 minutes, this time all film, except for a few seconds at the end): this link to view

What I find interesting is that Martin Short starts by explaining the origin of the name, Canada, as deriving from the native word for “village” or “settlement,” but then the film spends at least 5 minutes going on about how Canadians practically live outdoors, in the wilder wilds of nature. Did you know, for example, that ice skating is apparently our national mode of winter transportation…? No? It was news to me, too.

Aha, but then, after many views of bear & caribou & so on, Short adds this: “Most Canadians live in cities.”

What follows is a quick cross-country city tour, with each locale highlighted for something or other. Victoria is cited for its architecture — incidentally the only city to be distinguished for that aspect. Yet only our relatively slim pickings of wow! buildings (the Empress and the Legislature, both designed by Francis Rattenbury) are part of that highlight. We are not commended for anything new and recent.

And I say “relatively slim” not to disparage the magnificence of the buildings exposed in the film, but to point out that once you’re in the downtown neighbourhoods of Rock Bay or Harris Green or North Park, those buildings will mean little to you, because what you’re dealing with instead are the rather uninspired uglinesses on either side of the street…

So, in context, the “you would swear you were in England” remark is actually part of this statement: “The architecture of this charming city is so inspired by its British heritage that you would swear you were in England.”

I guess the question might then be, “How long can we continue to live off inspiration alone?” Even Disney gives it up to innovation, often and repeatedly…

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