VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #244 | Our Laneways Had Lots Of Tiny Restaurants

November 17, 2014 

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(via) We’ve already campaigned for small rooftop bars in residential neighbourhoods, so today we’re going to advocate for tiny restaurants on the main floors of local laneway houses. We’re talking wee little adorables like this modern, homey joint in Tokyo.

The owners of the building wanted to start fresh, and decided to renovate the condo to include a small restaurant that would not only help the local economy, but provide a communal space for locals to relax in. In addition, although the kitchen within the restaurant has a full time chef, it is also open to any aspiring cooks who enjoy preparing meals as well.

It’s a wonderful concept, but a labyrinth of municipal and provincial government red tape would need to be mowed to stubble for this to happen in Vancouver. Even more challenging than the zoning would be the resident armies of NIMBY zombies, who would surely need to be soundly suppressed for anything this cool to see the commercial light of day.

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VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #243 | It Had A Kindergarten As Beautiful As This

November 7, 2014 

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(via) This gorgeous, two year old Montessori-style kindergarten in Hyogo, Japan was designed by Masahiro Kiyohara and the firm Atelier Cube. It’s a world away from anything we’ve ever seen on this side of the Pacific; as stunning an environment in which to learn one’s ABC as we can imagine!

“A pixelated-like facade of windows and layered concrete panels serves as a backdrop to an outdoor playground for the young school children. The first floor has three layers; the first inside layer created to be like a ‘house’ resulting in the nursery room, the second layer a ‘garden’ resulting in middle space, and the outer layer ‘society’ resulting in a playground for the kids; both indoor and outdoor.”

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VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #242 | YVR Airport Invited Skateboarders To Ride

November 3, 2014 

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(via) Airports – both their interiors and exteriors – represent some of the most forbidding terrain for skateboarders. They offer an endless array of modular obstacles, rails, transitions and smooth open spaces, but they are as off-limits as military installations and zoos. Which is why it’s pretty damn dreamy that – as part of an open-minded branding exercise – a group of world class skateboarders were invited by Finn Air to fly into Helsinki Airport and rip it up for two days last month — hangars, runways, blast fences, ticket kiosks, baggage claim carousels, and all. Take a look…

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VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #242 | It Had The Greatest Bookstore In The World

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(via) Can Vancouver honestly claim to be a “world class” city without a great bookstore? By great we mean one that stops people in its tracks, ensnaring and enchanting all who enter it with the way in which it is artfully arranged. We don’t think so. It might have a handful of bookstores worthy of mention, but none are gobsmackingly massive or iconic (the stunning main branch of the public library notwithstanding). Chain behemoths like Chapters don’t count, and tangled labyrinths Powell’s in Portland or the Strand in New York are old hat. We believe that Vancouver should have something different and more modern — something like the voluminous, open-concept Livraria Culture in São Paulo, Brazil. Designed by Studio MK27 “to encourage shoppers to stay and read the books they’ve purchased or to simply hang out with friends”, it’s sexy as hell. Accordingly, we imagine it occupying the ridiculously over-sized Victoria’s Secret location on the corner of Robson and Burrard, which is no stranger to books in the first place.

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VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #241 | We Thought Earls Was Opening In Gastown

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(via) A cruel prankster in a quiet, family-oriented San Francisco neighbourhood recently put up a very convincing but entirely fake liquor license application notice on a shuttered business frontage indicating that the space was slated to become a Hooters.

Naturally, such a development would cause no small amount of consternation among the locals, which got us thinking that it might be a cruel but effective way to desensitize Vancouver’s worst NIMBYs to the threat of anything new or different.

Imagine the outrage if notices went up declaring the imminence of a needle exchange in Shaughnessey, a Prada flagship store on the DTES, a Whole Foods on Commercial Drive, or an Earls restaurant overlooking Gassy Jack Square in Gastown.

Granted, none of the above is an appropriate fit, but that’s the idea. Once people were let in on the farce(s), real conversations might replace the usual knee-jerk fury, self-righteousness and Gollum-like possessive psychosis that is the NIMBY norm in Vancouver’s neighbourhoods (for richer or poorer), and the prospect of future change could be examined more rationally with raised eyebrows instead of pitchforks.

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VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #241 | Its Parks Had Concessions Of Consequence

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(via) We’re digging the look and functionality of Liverpool’s outdoor Constellations Bar, which is much more than just a bar. It also sports a food truck, art space, cinema, and community garden. It got us thinking how cool it would be if Vancouver’s residential neighbourhoods each had a get-together hub that operated similarly.

Can you imagine a multi-purpose installation like this on the periphery of Vanier Park, David Lam Park, or Strathcona Park? Wouldn’t it be a thing of civic beauty if the Parks Board took this approach to its concessions and partnered with local craft breweries, farmers markets, community organisations, and food trucks?

On the design, which is remarkable in and of itself…

The structure is supported by a set of ten ‘quadrapods’ – doubled A-Frame supports -made from green oak. These have a duel function, as each one incorporated bench seating or a table. These quadrapods carry the load of the canopy via glue-lam beams, which project form the roof to form a wing-shaped rainspout. The courtyard garden is populated with green oak furniture, conceived as a set of tessellating components, and planted one-tone builders bags. These are easily movable, allowing the space to be reconfigured to accommodate the rolling program of arts events, performance, cinema screenings and a market.

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VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #240 | It Had A Fleet Of These Citroen Martini Bars

September 29, 2014 

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by Treve Ring | Dubbed “The World’s Most Intimate Martini Bar”, the Grey Goose-commissioned camionnette van fits only two guests plus a bartender, whose express role is to create bespoke martinis based on guest tastes. The Citroen H’s exterior displays baguettes made from the same wheat used to create Grey Goose vodka, and a peep hole allows the curious/envious a boo inside at the marble, leather, bronze, etched glass, and deuce of happy imbibers. We’d previously desired something similar with wine (the Union Wine Co. truck in Portland), so why not cocktails?

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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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