November 30, 2006

Sacred by Design

Sacred Spaces is a special series on CBC Radio One looking at the idea of spiritual places in the Lower Mainland.

I focused on the design of religious spaces. Mark Ostry of Acton Ostry Architects met me at the first religious building they ever designed, Har El Synagogue, where he gave me a tour of the building.

For more info on Acton Ostry, check out their site.

November 29, 2006

Raymond Moriyama: Remembrance of a Powell Street Past

I've lately been thinking about Raymond Moriyama of Moriyama & Teshima Architects

I interviewed him for The Current just before the opening of the World Urban Forum this summer. We spent a great couple of hours together talking about a sensitive topic.

Moriyama designed hundreds of buildings around the world but one of his most important recent works is the Canadian War Museum which, as Anna Maria Tremonti said, is "a bittersweet irony considering-- as a boy--- he was one of the 20,000 Japanese-Canadians interred by the federal government during World War Two."

Well, Moriyama and I toured his old neighbourhood. We started our trip into the past in a taxi headed to a part of the downtown eastside that used to be known as Japantown.

It's after the letters section of the June 15, 2006 edition of The Current
Listen.

I think what he had to say about Vancouver was absolutely reasonable, valid and understandably tinged with his personal experience. Local architects, however, gave him a hard time. Even though he's right.

What do you think?

November 24, 2006

Waxed Cotton: Vancouver's nylon alternative for a rainy day

(aired November 6)

Sick of nylon or rubber raincoats? I sure am, especially the raspy hand of the fabric and the ridiculous scratchy sound it makes when you walk. It's like that episode of Seinfeld when George Constanza wore a nylon business suit.

Any way, isn't it time to make the jump to an organic fabric. As reported before On The Coast during my segment of VBD, natural fibers like hemp and bamboo are finding their way onto the runway. And maybe it's time for waxed cotton to make it into your wardrobe.

Yes that's right, for once I am ahead of the curve and in touch with the climatological and
fashion zeitgeist. I have been thinking about how waxed cotton or oilskins will be next year's fall outerwear fabric.

The origins of waxed cotton is mixed into the history of the British imperial expansion. Originally, sailors made raingear out of linen sailcloth proofed with linseed oil. When the linseed aged, it would yellow which is the origin of the bright yellow raincoat (above and beyond it's safety).

Later on linseed oil was replaced by paraffin wax and beeswax and the treatments have become proprietal with a trio of great companies looming large in the world of wax cotton outerwear. One is in Australia called Drizabone and the other is Barbour in the UK. Then there's Filson, a storied outfitters in Oregon. Their waxed cottons
hold water when flat and when wet the water beads. Initially, none of it should soak into the canvas.

Vancouver is also home to a waxed cotton empire called the Australian Outback Collection. Despite it's Aussie/Brit mystique, the waxed cotton is being designed and made in Vancouver and the majority of their coats are being sold in the US.

Their style evokes the Man from Snowy River...long aussie drover riding coats, brownish and festooned with snaps and a cape.

But the collection has diversified since the 1990s western Authenticate man craze.

I spoke to Lori McElwain. She runs the Australian Outback Collection from Vancouver. And she told me about how their beginning to create products in bamboo and hemp and hemp cotton. They have also created a line of lighter weight canvas for city slickers and now have cuts flattering to women.

While Lori likes to wear a jacket called the Katandra - a simple zip front with fleece lining on the collar and in the pockets, I think the most stylish of the collection is a jacket called the Kiama.

It's essentially a fitted light-weight waxed cotton version of the duffle coat. It has toggles and a hood. But it has a fitted waisted and it has a shorter more contemporary mid-thigh length. It's a great knock-about-town look, not formal or office wear, but it has an urban chic that doesn't say
you're going off to shoot ducks.

You find them in half a dozen locations in town like Frances Hills at 151 Water Street in Gastown in Vancouver and also at 3 Vets.

Waxed cotton is the perfect material for our climate and sensibility. There's the whiff of the rugged Western and simultaneously has the great nautical heritage. If there was a material, or
a fabric that could replace rip-stop nylon and challenge hemp as a Vancouver material, I would say it should be waxed cotton.

November 20, 2006

Air India Memorial concept revealed

This morning I spoke with Leila Zeppelin, the lead designer of the Air India Memorial and the Ceperley Meadow Playground redevelopment. She is with Lees & Associates, a landscape firm with a focus on cemetery and memorial design.

The conceptual drawings were presented at a public meeting last Thursday held by the Vancouver Parks Board. It was met with no objections and now Parks board staff will draft a resolution to be voted on in the future. And now, the Air India design concept is no longer under wraps, however, there are no images online as of yet. Check the Vancouver Parks Board for more info.

The proposal calls for a terraced picnic area that cascades to a redeveloped playground. The playground will use natural elements like rocks, boulders and driftwood to create create the play area instead of standard playground equipment.

With collective spaces and apparatus that encourage group play like disc-shaped swings and giant hammock under a driftwood arc, Zeppelin hopes the design will encourage among children conflict resolution skills and cooperative play.

The actual memorial sits higher on the slope among three dove trees beautifully described by Zeppelin. She says they have large white "handkerchief" blossoms and symbolize peace.

It is a promising concept but I think the memorial component is too small. And that's because there's local resistance to putting memorials inside Stanley Park.

However, the memorial stone wall does command a great view of the ocean. The victims were lost in the ocean and so the ocean because the great connective substance between here and the waters of Ireland.

Plus there is the simple act of looking for a name of a child who was killed in the Air India bombing and then turning 180 degrees and see children playing in the playground. This should be a powerful experience of hope rather than just a symbolic or representation of hope. It is hope itself.

So if Lee & Associates are permitted to scale-up and give the memorial wall an adequate physical presence, the project could be well on its way to doing justice to the victims' memories. The completion date in June 23, 2007, the anniversary of the bombing.

In 1985, 329 people were killed when a bomb exploded on Air India Flight 182 as it flew off the coast of Ireland. There were no survivors. Two others were killed in the bomb plot at Narita Airport in Japan.
Look for updates here.