OK High rises

After a couple of days of mocking and criticizing high rises, it’s time to show a few that do work, in my humble opinion. At first glance, the Paris hotel (seen outside my window in a much much much cheaper hotel)(don’t ask) (OK, do ask, if you insist, it cost $69 taxes in) in Vegas looks quite ornate. But a longer study reveals it is quite simple, with the same pre-cast elements repeated numerous times. It has a hat (roof), a belt (mid height break) and its base is a 2-5 storey podium that goes up to the mainstreet frontage, keeping the high-rise tower … Continue reading OK High rises

The Other City Centre Project

Everything in Vegas is done bigger. Their City Centre complex is tich larger than Ottawa’s. Even our forever-proposed-but-never-built new City Centre project is about 2 million sq ft of space whereas the Vegas one is 16 million square feet. The Vegas one has lots of underground parking: 6900 spaces, in the 9.2 billion dollar project. It is impressive, but not always in a nice way. The architects belong to the make it bigger, make it odder school of architecture. There are few attempts to make it intimate, personal, pleasant: instead it’s all schlock and awe. How, exactly, does one feel entering your condo … Continue reading The Other City Centre Project

New urbanism, smaller homes – not found in Ottawa

When work is what you have to do, then holidays become a chance to do something else. Entirely different. But when you can do what you want to do, then what is a holiday but a chance to do the same thing, elsewhere? OK, so I’m boring and predictable. Thus it was that February found me checking out new urbanism communities in the American southwest. I  found one in Prescott, Az aimed at 55+. It had all the classic new urbanism characteristics: narrower streets, houses close to the curb, verandahs and porches, smaller lots, shared recreation in two parks — one … Continue reading New urbanism, smaller homes – not found in Ottawa

Strip Mall loses its parking lot

I have never seen another North American city with as many strip malls — Mac’s Milk Plazas — as Ottawa. There are so many of them they become characteristic of the city. It’s harder to notice something by its absence, but keep your eyes sharp when visiting  other cities. Do you see as many strip malls? Sure, you see some, but not to the abundance we have here. Indeed, some Canadian cities severely restrict them or have no zoning provision for them at all. What would happen if Ottawa rezoned every strip mall as a five storey building? Well, there would … Continue reading Strip Mall loses its parking lot

Phoenix LRT (part iii) The Video

Let’s go for a trip on the Phoenix LRT. The video at this link takes 10 minutes to play. The link may not be live, ie you may have to copy and paste to your browser. http://youtu.be/D3EANU4FmiI Leave the window size small, as the video is low resolution, taken from a handheld digital camera while sitting behind the driver. The Phoenix LRT is 20 miles long (32 km), and has 28 stations. It opened in Dec 2008. Ridership in 2011 averaged 40,600 pax per day. The peak day carried over 60,000 pax. The trains are two-car train sets, thus the … Continue reading Phoenix LRT (part iii) The Video

Phoenix LRT (part ii)

In the downtown Phoenix transit plaza there were these brightly coloured display boards. From a distance, I thought they were route maps or timetables. Upon closer inspection, they proved to be laser-cut metal sheets. Each one showed a subway or rail transit map from the major cities of the world. I felt a bit – discomforted – inspecting these. Was little Phoenix trying to cast itself in the Big Leagues, rather like Toronto (used to) cast itself as “world class” which simply proved it isn’t? Was it pompous? Or was it just Public Art? The station closeup (above) shows a number … Continue reading Phoenix LRT (part ii)

Phoenix LRT station designs

Phoenix has a somewhat different climate from Ottawa (why else would I go there in February?) and their LRT station designs have different functions. Mainly, they provide shade. The stations are simple raised platforms, about 16′ wide. Metal sails overhead provide dense shadows; tubes and fins provide dappled shade. Stations all along the 20 mile line were built on a common design.Most platforms had greenery, in the form of vines growing up between wire meshes. The mesh protects the greenery from damage, and provides support. Think of it as an ultra-thin hedge. Similar wire mesh fences have been installed between patios on … Continue reading Phoenix LRT station designs

Signs of the times

Do our signs inform or amuse travellers to here?  Recall the “joke” about every bridge in Ottawa having the same name: The Pont Bridge. Here is the sign at the entrance to the Elks Opera House in Prescott, Az. At least the villains in the performance were safe from Frontier Justice: You do have to pause a bit at the condition ” unless otherwise authorized…”  Does that apply to any license to carry a concealed or unconcealed weapon?  Would someone unlicensed hand in their gun to the usher like someone might check a coat? But wait, there’s more: here is a sign … Continue reading Signs of the times