VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #239 | It Had A Pop-Up Beer Garden Like Argentina

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by Treve Ring | You don’t need Google Translate to decipher the Refugio de Camping designs from IT MET Estudio, an architecture and design firm based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I, for one, would camp a helluva lot more often if my campsite featured a greenhouse and beer taps.

This 18-by-8.5 foot pop-up pop up refuge/party is designed to fold and open itself, the translucent façade (sinusoidal polycarbonate sheets, in case you were wondering) filtering in daylight and producing a lit-from-within lantern effect in darkness. Thin white metal bones and guatambu hardwood paneling can easily be disassembled, transported and reassembled as a puzzle, each part designed in order to be moved and built by anyone, anywhere.

In Buenos Aires’ hip Recoleta district, the first Refugio de Camping is perched on an urban rooftop, fully embracing the culture of alfresco drinking, transient and translucent. It doesn’t take much to imagine fitting in just about anywhere in Vancouver.

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VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #238 | False Creek Had PDX’s “Bollywood Theatre”

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by Andrew Morrison | One particular stand out from a recent trip to Portland was the new and expansive Division Street location of Bollywood Theatre, a killer Indian street food joint that originally debuted on NE Alberta St. back in 2012. It was one of the best eating experiences I’ve had this year, and I wish to hell we had something just like it here in Vancouver’s restaurant scene, which would benefit hugely from a shot in the Indian arm. The short video below – produced by the restaurant – will give you an inkling as to what the place is all about…

The new location’s open concept interior is – as you can see from the shots below – pretty as all get out. The worn wooden benches, bright fabrics, myriad milieu ephemera (everything from Ghandi shrines to “Spitting Prohibited” signs) and attention to detail – not to mention the intoxicating panoply of smells – lend it a more hallucinatory than cinéma vérité feel, but that hasn’t stopped Portland’s local Indian community from loving the hell out of the place.

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The food kicks serious ass for cost with prices hovering in the $15 range for a fill-up that could include things like addictive kati rolls, thali platters of pork vindaloo and chicken curry, and Goan-style shrimp in slickly spiced, citrus-zinged coconut milk. The flavours from owner/chef Troy MacLarty (pictured below right – a farm-to-table disciple of Berkeley’s famed Chez Panisse Café) are bright and punchy, and the quality/authenticity of his ingredients is unimpeachable (NB: the restaurant has a satellite store selling all manner of imported Indian spices and edibles).

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The drinks program is no slouch, either, with its tidy mix of vernacular cocktails and beers. Our own Vij’s in South Granville has them beat in the wine department, but Bollywood Theatre has no pretensions of being anywhere remotely close to fine dining (it’s counter service, plus you bus your own tables), which is another reason why I’d love to see something like Bollywood Theatre here, particularly in False Creek-Olympic Village, which could really use something that didn’t feel like a corporate Cactus Club/Earls amalgam that’s been covered in craft beer paint.

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VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #237 | It Had Its Fair Share Of Bushy “Graffitrees”

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(via) In a land where “No Pipelines” and “Mohinder” graffiti regularly captures our collective imagination fury, these beauties would be most welcome. The big one on top is called “Afro Taino” and it was painted by Gabriel Abreu in the Dominican city of San Cristobal. On the bottom, the mural of the woman in repose was done by famed female graffiti artist Vinie Graffiti outside Paris, France, while Nuxono Xän’s cool fellow with the comb can be found in Fort de France, Martinique.

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VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #237 | If It Had More “Horseshoe” Lunch Counters

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by Andrew Morrison | A couple of years ago I was reminded of the enduring attractiveness of horseshoe-shaped lunch counters while exploring the hot messes that were the interiors of The Only (the once legendary restaurant with the spectacular sea horse neon signage) and The Logger’s Social Club directly above it. Both establishments were in shocking states of disrepair, but the integrity and beauty of their once bustling lunch counters was still plainly obvious…

Just the way they were shaped – to allow for omnipresent service and customer interaction (chairs bolted to the ground) – tickles my fancy to this day. Of course, Vancouver used to boast well over a dozen eateries that showcased seating in this style (eg. The Aristocratic), the most impressive among them being the beautifully stark cafeteria in the old Waterfront Station building (see below)…

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As to why the style went out of fashion is a mystery to me. Perhaps it has something to do with maximizing a dining room’s seating capacity, or maybe it’s about the increasingly anti-social nature of the modern, smartphone-wielding customer who doesn’t want to see or talk to anyone or be seen to be dining alone. But if that were true, why are communal tables so popular today? Horseshoe lunch counters and communal tables are essentially the same thing, except the former affords customers a little more personal space (in front) and allows for much better service (in between). Did restaurant designers simply forget about them? What ever the truth of it may be, I’d like to see more.

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The only complete horseshoe lunch counter that I know of that currently serves customers in Vancouver is the one inside Acme Cafe at 51 West Hastings (above). I say “complete” horseshoe because there are others that are broken up at the apex by a service station (I’m thinking of Moderne Burger on the West Side). It’s only four years old, which is to say that the style is still practical, even in the age of wifi. Alas, contrary to today’s norm, you’ll find no signal inside. Nor will you find an outlet to power your laptop. Owner Peggy Hoffman explains that this is by design to encourage customers to interact with one another. “So many relationships have started right here,” she told me proudly this afternoon while motioning to her lunch counter. It draws a lot of single diners, she added. “Once it’s full, you can’t tell who’s single any more.”

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VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #236 | It Had Viewing Platform With A Spiral Slide

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(via) Vancouver runs an unfortunate deficit of accessible viewing platforms (no, the mountains don’t count). While it has long offered up two revolting revolving lounge/restaurants with incredible views in all directions, the food leaves a lot to be desired and it costs an arm and a leg just to be subjected to it. Wouldn’t it be great if we could take food out of the equation to build something that was free and as fun as it was high in the sky? For ideas, we could start by looking at the observation tower recently constructed in Germany by artist Carsten Höller for the design firm Vitra. Its sole purpose is to inspire its employees and comes complete with glassed-in observation deck, ladder, clock, and 100 ft. spiralling slide.

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VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #235 | It Had Rooftop Bars In Its Neighbourhoods

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(via) A modern home in Minsk, Belarus has been designed to include a gorgeous, fully-functioning bar in its attic that spills out onto its equally stunning roof. It’s located in the heart of the city, with views inside and out.

Two main features organize the space – first, it is a multifunctional structure in pine boards, which spans across the entire space. It has a bar, a lamp, a shelf and a coat rack. Taken together, it highlights the space as an archetypal attic. Second, it is a soft seating structure occupying an otherwise unusable space found under a low ceiling. The dividing elements “mirror” the sloped ceiling, so the space becomes complete.

Swell design aside, a homeowner opened a bar in his attic and the government was OK with that? Where again is this amazing Minsk that you speak of? In all seriousness, while it’s way too much to ask of Vancouver to allow bars to operate in private homes (attic or not), we do think that licensed establishments in residential neighbourhoods (a la Portland) and accessible rooftops (a la Beirut) should be encouraged here. That this city doesn’t run a surplus of both is an unfortunate symptom of the stifling, overly-protective Mom affliction that has bent Vancouver’s cultural spine since the day it was born (“Just go drink on Granville Street, dear, where I can keep my eye on you…”). While efforts to straighten things out have had some success in recent years (extended patio hours, food carts, reformed liquor laws, etc.), it nevertheless chafes whenever we learn that stuff like this exists elsewhere, especially in places that have known liberty for all of three minutes. Top marks, Minsk.

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VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #234 | We Could Watch The World Cup Like Berlin

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Residents of Berlin have been invited to bring in their sofas to the Alte Försterei stadium so they can drink beer, eat sausages, and watch the World Cup matches on the big screen. In Vancouver, the chances of that happening at Swangard, BC Place, Rogers Arena, or the Pacific Coliseum are unfortunately nil, but it’s nevertheless good to dream of such things and to keep hope alive that we – as a city – will eventually graduate up from our crawling, rioting infancy. Photo: @Hackepete. Many thanks to reader CA for the link.

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VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #233 | It Had A Huge Warren We Could All Explore

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Have you ever had one of those Watership Down meets Lewis Carroll kinds of dreams when you find yourself lost in a massive underground root/warren system? No? You’re not missing much, really, because they’re actually pretty scary. It’s probably a much better experience when you’re awake, which is why we’re coveting Brazilian artist Henrique Oliveira’s new installation at Sao Paulo’s Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade. Something like it would be a nice fit in one of the old warehouse in Olympic Village/False Creek.

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VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #232 | Our Bus Shelters Were Designed By Artists

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(via) A cultural organisation in the little Austrian village of Krumbach recently invited several international architect to design a series bus stop shelters. Their fee? A holiday in the region.

Each also partnered with a local architecture office, who acted as an intermediary between the designer and the local craft-based businesses who built the structures.

Would such a project ever fly in Vancouver? It’s doubtful. Our bus shelters are advertising billboards first and people shelters second. A project this interesting is just not in Translink’s DNA. However, the basic premise of trading holidays for ideas and foreign collaborations with local artisans is something our civic overlords and cultural organisations should definitely look into.

[hat tip: Michael Schwartz]

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VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #231 | It Had PDX’s “Multnomah Whiskey Library”

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On a recent trip to Portland we were thrilled to discover that our local friend/guide was a member at the Multnomah Whiskey Library, a dark wood-panelled second-floor lovely staffed by knowledgeable, attentive bartenders and stocked with 1,500 whiskies.

Yes, you read that correctly. That’s one thousand five hundred types of whiskey, all on a menu typed by Herman Melville. When Groucho Marx famously said “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member,” he was being a damn fool.

Members (and non-members) sit on cozy, over-stuffed armchairs, recline on soft couches, and relax in nooks or by a roaring fire mantled with a collection of gorgeous decanters, their drinks brought to them unmade on vintage carts that wobble across herringbone-patterned fir floors that look about as old as Portland itself.

The food – which is mostly of the finger ilk – is well wrought. Think addictive devils on horseback (bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat’s cheese and almonds), excellent scotch eggs, fresh oysters, and wee cast iron-griddled cheeseburgers. How the dishes arrive in the room – through a small and secret window disguised in the wood-panelling (signalled by a green light) – is especially Scooby-Do.

In all, it’s probably the prettiest place I’ve ever bent an elbow – more impressive than the American Bar in London’s Savoy Hotel and more comfortable than Kentucky’s Seelbach – and I wish to hell we had something like in Vancouver.

Don’t get too hung up on the “member” thing. It’s not hyper-exclusive, super posh, or prohibitively expensive. Dues start at $500, which is pretty reasonable. The big perk is the ability to make reservations. They don’t accept them otherwise. To wit:

“Members are able to make reservations for seatings during normal hours of operation. (Note: non-members may access the Library on a walk-in basis only.) Reservations for Members will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis; we will use our best efforts to accommodate a Member and his/her desired number of guests nearest to the requested time as possible.”

Membership has other privileges, too, namely a private spirit locker, special tulip glasses, leather-bound tasting notebooks, and invitations to members-only seminars and such. Unsurprisingly, they’re at capacity, and there is a waiting list. If you sign up now you might get a call in 100 years or so (chances are that if you were one of the lucky ones to get a membership when it opened last year, you’re never going to let it go).

Why would I want something like it in Vancouver? For starters, it’s just so damn good looking. Truly, hours spent in its embrace are hours you wouldn’t want back. I could leave it that, but then there’s all the whiskey, which makes it all the more especially attractive. Though we have several bars that rule the whiskey roost (eg. Fets Whisky Kitchen on The Drive), MWL is in a league of its own, and it never feels cramped on account of its spread-out seating and the manner in which the staff manage the room. They don’t “turn and burn” like most restaurants/bars do, and one doesn’t feel rushed. Most importantly, I think the membership thing calms down the environment. Nobody wants to fuck up the good thing they’ve got going on, so everyone behaves. Imagine that!

The membership aspect of it might be too much for a lot of Vancouverites, but a whiskey library is the sort of club we’d want to be members of, especially if it ensured us the occasional seat. We really don’t care which neighbourhood it went into, but close to Victory Square feels about right. The old Pappas Furs location? OK!

Scout is publishing a guide to more good times in Portland next week. Stay tuned.

Multnomah Whiskey Library | 1124 SW Alder Street | Portland, Oregon | USA | +1 503-954-1381

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VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #230 | It Had Floating Public Saunas In False Creek

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(via) In Finland, citizens have the option of the Sauna Lauta, a three deck floating sauna with hammocks, outdoor grills, and diving platforms for dips after hot hot hot sessions inside the sauna. If the powers that be are serious about their “most liveable city” nonsense, they’ll green light a pilot project wherein a dozen of these bookable babies can be accessed at different points along False Creek…

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VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #229 | It Had A Few Pieces Of Rain Activated Art

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(via) You know how when it’s sunny there are a million things to do and everyone is super excited about all of them, but when it’s raining nobody gives a damn about anything and they just want to go home and sulk until the sun comes out again? It would be nice – cool, even – if we had reasons to look forward to the rain. Not for our gardens, slip-and-slides, or Fred Astaire fetishes, but rather to appreciate some public pieces of art that were only visible in the wet.

Such is the case on an old building’s brick wall in Hartford, Connecticut, where artist Adam Niklewicz created a 30ft x 45ft “Charter Oak” tree – a symbol of American independence – using sealant, stencils, and graphite transfers. According to Niklewicz, “Public art should embrace the existing environment and work to enrich reality.” We couldn’t agree more.

While it’s true that Vancouver doesn’t have the deep well of historical context to draw from that Hartford does, I’m sure we could come up with a few ideas for similar wall treatments. How about the iconic maple tree that Vancouver’s early settlers used to meet under to seek shade, shelter, and gossip? It was located in Maple Tree Square (the heart of Gastown), right where the statue of Gassy Jack Deighton stands today. I’d like to see it again, wouldn’t you?

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VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #228 | An Artist Made Our Cityscape Into A Sphere

February 13, 2014 

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(via) Philadelphian designer James McNabb creates these beautiful “City Spheres” using scrap wood, and we think someone from Vancouver should give it a shot employing native woods and our own skyline. Bonus awesomeness: check out his City Wheel. How cool is that?!

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VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #227 | It Had A Fleet Of 1972 Citroen Wine Trucks

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Are you done high-fiving your friends over the modernization of most of BC’s archaic and patently ridiculous liquor laws? Good! Because until there are a fleet of these awesome looking 1972 Citroen H French vans constantly breaking down, flinging open their panelled sides and serving “to go” cups of local wine all across Vancouver, you need to stay angry and unsatisfied. Where, pray, does the fantastic beast pictured above exist in the first place? Exactly where you’d expect.

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