VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #218 | It Had A Massive Treehouse In Stanley Park

October 25, 2013 


(via) This five-storey, 97ft high treehouse in Tennessee includes a church, bell tower, an antique church pew, a stained-glass window of Jesus, a choir loft, and a make-shift basketball court. There are some 80 rooms and cloisters in total. It took a priest and a handful of faithful $12,000, a quarter million nails, and 14 years to build it around a base of 6 oak trees. It was just entered into the Guinness Book of World Records, presumably as the most awesome thing ever. Had he chosen to build it here in Vancouver, he probably would have had some grief navigating the dual downers of the City of Vancouver’s Engineering Department and the Parks Board, but who knows? The Lord (I’m told) works in mysterious ways…


VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #217 | Our Tourism Ads Were Made By Norwegians

October 23, 2013 

Vancouver’s tourism ads have jumped the shark. One can always anticipate a treatment of the skyline (via seaplane), a mountain vignette (usually more than one), shots of Chinatown, inukshuks, kayakers, rainforest warriors, First Nations dancers, killer whales, and so on. They’re so very predictable. The Yankee state of Massachusetts has long shared this predicament, only with Fenway Park, autumn colours, statues of John Adams, and the equally “expected” like being the same same anchor around their necks. Lucky for them, a Scandinavian group called Ylvis put together a new tourism video that captures it all in uniquely weird fashion (see above), complete with Nelson Mandela’s house and a little latent homo-eroticism. If the troupe would come to Vancouver to produce a similar video, we’d be ever so happy to host them and show them around.


VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #216 | It Had An Eatery Without A Front Of House

October 21, 2013 

(via) This BBC clip from the tech program Click has the host sitting down at an automated restaurant in Tokyo where every table comes complete with a tablet for ordering, a newfangled conveyor belt, and a plate chute so you can bus your own mess. There are no front of house staffers at all. Why do we want to see this in Vancouver? So we can see with our own eyes how ridiculous the idea is, and to watch it fail with delight. Restaurants that are worth going to aren’t just about the food. For better or for worse, they’re also about the people who work there. When you take them and their personalities out of the equation, whether it be in a fine dining joint or a humble ramen house, the experience spoils. The same goes for robot bartenders and monkey waiters. They aren’t the future. They’re merely gimmicks; fodder for lazy news editors.


VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #215 | It Had A Restaurant Like Italy’s “Ai Pioppi”

October 15, 2013 


(via) 44 years ago, an Italian restaurateur/tinkerer named Bruno started Ai Pioppi, a roadside restaurant in a forest outside Battaglia. He launched with jugs of red and white wine, some soppressata, and a whole bunch of sausages that he hung from a tree over an outdoor grill. We can imagine it being simple and good, but what makes Ai Pioppi so unique are the many rides that Bruno has built around its periphery. Think swings, slides, seesaws, gyroscopes and roller-coasters, all made by hand in the surrounding woods. Watch the video above. It’s mesmerising.

Of course, something like this would never be possible in Vancouver. For starters, the rides would be seen as death traps. There would need to be “plans” for them, architectural drawings and engineering schematics, not to mention a special, prohibitively expensive license that was drawn up in 1904 as a civic cash grab. Every customer would need to sign a waiver form and take a breathalyzer test, and no children would ever be allowed. It’s clear that Bruno has had no use for plans or rules since 1969. Our city inspectors would just laugh at his applications anyway, and there’s no way in hell that sausages would be allowed to hang from trees. Nor could wine be purchased by the jug from a vintner down the road. That’s tragically typical, to be sure, but what’s especially sad is that – short of a round trip to Italy – the closest thing to this that our kids will ever see in Vancouver is a McDonald’s “Playplace”.


VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #214 | It Was Represented In A Bird’s Eye Mosaic

October 4, 2013 


(via) I love mosaics, especially Roman ones. There’s just something about the colourful arrangement of thousands of little tessarae (the smaller the better) that makes me smile. I particularly enjoy watching them get uncovered by archaeologists (watch these guys reveal the beauties at Dinnington in Somerset), but that doesn’t happen every day. Mosaicists are a rare breed in the modern age, but Gerhard Marx, an artist in South Africa, recently put together one of the most gorgeous and unique mosaics I’ve ever seen with Spier Architectural Arts. Instead of Apollo and Daphne prancing around a pomegranate or a simple geometric pattern, it’s a realistic birds-eye rendering of a section of Johannesburg done in marble, travertine, red brick, ceramic, and chips of Venetian smalti glass, all set within 56 different panels. Altogether, the free-standing work of art weighs three tonnes. Watch the video below to get a feel for the process…


VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #213 | We Had Skytrain Etiquette Penned By Poets


(via) London’s poets have been invited to participate in a new campaign to improve passenger etiquette on the Tube. We think that would our poets should be entreated to do the same for the SkyTrain, where basic civility long ago went to die. The new UK initiative, dubbed Travel Better London, also invites passengers to come up with their own poems and submit them to a blog. The winning work will be turned into a poster and featured throughout the city’s vast transportation network. Dig this Chivalry Haiku:

Small clouds of grey suits
Part To Make Way For Tired Mum
Wheeling Red Buggy


VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #212 | It Annually Exploded With Joyous Abandon

September 18, 2013 


Vancouver’s annual fireworks celebrations are the city in microcosm. There are corporate sponsors, occasional stabbings, police wasting perfectly good liquor, no parking, bridge and tunnel hordes, a Cactus Club, marijuana clouds, and carefully manufactured excitements that are remote and untouchable on a barge way out in the ocean. Wouldn’t it be nice to let loose and do like Mexico do? Every year at the National Pyrotechnical Festival in Tultepec (photos via Thomas Prior), over 100,000 people gather to watch and participate in the spectacle. Sure there might be an injury or two, but these must be offset by the noise, fun, tequila, and the unique satisfaction that comes when you aren’t treated like a plodding infant by the State.


VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #211 | Several Of Its Buildings Had Edible Facades

September 3, 2013 


City Hall may have expressed its affections for “edible landscaping” and green-lit (or gotten out of the way of) several urban agriculture projects, but it would be especially cool if the visual impact of such positive changes eventually went vertical. Truly, while there already are “green walls” in the Lower Mainland (eg. Inspiration Furniture on West 6th, Semiahmoo Sky Garden in South Surrey), it would be a hell of a lot more awesome if we had walls that we could gather food from. In Los Angeles, for example (which, granted, has a longer, hotter growing cycle), there are dozens of food walls, some with more than 4,000 plants growing on them, everything from tomatoes and cucumbers to bell peppers, spinach, and leeks. It’s a smart use of space in tight urban environments, and if you compare the typical horizontal acreage to the vertical – eg. New York has 30 miles of roofs and thousands of miles of walls – it just makes sense to explore the possibilities.

- the before-and-after photos above depict the green wall (via) that was just installed in Paris at the intersection of Montorgueil, Reaumur Sebastopol and the Great Boulevards. It contains 7,600 plants representing 237 individual species.


VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #211: A Cinema Centipede Was Installed On Robson

August 28, 2013 


(via) Bartlett School of Architecture professor Colin Fournier, Polish artist Marysia Lewandowska, and London studio NEON joined forces in the Portuguese town of Guimarães to construct a covered (but nevertheless outdoor) cinema with room for 16 heads and shoulders. It’s called “Centipede Cinema” because – with the legs of the theatre goers exposed – it looks just like that. While it would an interesting installation just about anywhere in the city, it would make a particularly nice addition to VIVA Vancouver’s colourful patio on Robson. The one in Portugal shows an hour long loop of 20 trailers. What would ours show?


VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #210: It Had Pee Deflectors Installed In Blood Alley


By about noon on pretty much every Sunday morning, a full nine hours after the visiting legions of “bros” have finished dousing the eastern flanks of Blood Alley in Gastown with their Red Bull-infused urine, a reeking miasma rises to choke every innocent nostril unfortunate enough to be carried past. The stench remains powerful well into the week. If it were visible, we would see a forbidding neon piss yellow cumulonimbus billowing out of the alley’s Carrall St. entrance. Property owners and shopkeepers in Dickensian London dealt with the same issue by installing urine deflectors on the lower sections of alleyway walls so that when men tried to relieve themselves upon them their pee would stream right back down onto their shoes.

“…in London a man may sometimes walk a mile before he can meet with a suitable corner; for so unaccomodating are the owners of doorways, passages and angles, that they seem to have exhausted invention in the ridiculous barricadoes and shelves, grooves, and one fixed above another, to conduct the stream into the shoes of the luckless wight who shall dare to profane the intrenchments.”

Several of these “barricadoes and shelves” survive to this day (the top three images above are from Clifford’s Inn Passage off London’s Fleet Street with the bottom photo – complete with pee stream-catching grooves – taken in an old alley in Nottingham). Would the prospect of urine-soaked Abercrombie & Fitch flip-flops dissuade Gastown’s many offenders? Quite possibly. In any event, the persistent stink – which has gotten worse in recent years as the neighbourhood’s night-time “destination” cred has increased – proves that the threat of a $100 fine remains decidedly ineffective.


VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #209: It Rented Electric Scooters Made From Hemp


Since Vancouver’s Bike Share program looks like it’s finally happening, this is what should come next. The electric gizmo, dubbed the Be.e, goes from 0-50 kph in seven seconds and has a 60-90km range on a 2000-cycle battery that can be fully charged in less than four hours. Via Like Cool: “The body made of hemp and flax fibers that have been impregnated with a biologically derived resin. The result is lightweight, nippy and nimble—which is why similar technology is used in Formula 1 cars.” The cool thing is that the Be.e isn’t for sale in The Netherlands. They’re only available as rentals, and for a piddling $180 a month. It’s a natural fit for Vancouver. I mean…weed, flax, bio-resin, electric…and doesn’t the guy in the suit look like our Mayor? Well, he doesn’t really (head cropped accordingly), but make it happen just the same, Moonbeam!


VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #208: New Gallery Plans Had No Condos Attached


You’ve likely heard a lot of talk about the Vancouver Art Gallery moving. We think it’s a great idea if they’ve truly run out of space, and we’re stoked that the Museum of Vancouver might be taking over the old courthouse pile in the city’s navel because, let’s face two facts: (1) the Museum of Vancouver does awesome programming (2) it’s currently located behind the city’s left earlobe (2). Anyway, the City unanimously approved the Art Gallery move back in April and there’s been lots of humming and hawing ever since on where (and if) it should go (the official word is Larwill Park, which is right next to Where The Hell Is Larwill Park*). You might even remember the Condo King, Bob Rennie, weighing in the subject for the CBC: ”If Rennie had his way, the iconic front of the post office would be used to create a 60,000-square-foot gallery space, while the rest of the building would be used for retail and condos.“ I see what you did there, Bob. No thanks.

Why not put the new VAG somewhere where the likes of Rennie and his ilk couldn’t reach it, like in the middle of False Creek, or floating out near Crab Park? No retail, no condos, just art. In China, local architecture firm MAD has proposed a design for the Pingtang Art Museum located on Pingtang island (pictured above). It will “house all of the nation’s prized artifacts and will be part of a hub which serves to facilitate trade and cultural relations between Taiwan.” Think McBarge, only write large and with a much better design and improved food. The dragon boaters might complain about it being a serious obstacle (damned aquatic NIMBYs), but they could paddle around it no problem.

* 688 Cambie St., a 1.8-acre site, located at Cambie and Georgia (and never mind the viaducts).


VANCOUVER WOULD BE COOLER IF #207: It Had Its Very Own Symbolic “Gordian Knot”


(via) Brazilian artist Henrique Oliveira recently revealed this incredible piece – dubbed Baitogogo – at Paris’ Palais de Tokyo. It’s an interior architectural structure of stark, ordered white columns that has its heart transformed into an organic knot of roots. Over time, Gordian Knots have come to represent seemingly impossible-to-untangle problems, of which this city has a few. One either tries to delicately deal with the knot with subtlety and care over time or violently slashes through it in fits of frustration or entitled pique (as Alexander the Great did with the fabled Phrygian original in 333 BC). We’d love to see something similar installed in a big interior space in Vancouver, somewhere like Inform on Water Street, The Salt Building in Olympic Village, or inside Parker Street Studios (the navel of the Eastside Culture Crawl). Here, where important issues and arguments are too often robbed of their nuance by jingoism, rage, and the politics of guilt, hanging miniature versions from “controversial” locales – think Pidgin, Cuchillo, Point Grey Road, Bike Lanes, Insite, the Main St. poodle, etc. – wouldn’t be so bad, either.


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