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.
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!
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).
(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.
(via) This building in the Kunsthofpassage area of Dresden, Germany sports a beautiful labyrinthine series of funnels cascading down one of its walls. Urban legend has it that they play music whenever the rain pours down through them, but we’ve seen a few videos of the contraption (including the one above), but none of them have ever revealed any of the supposed “music”. Maybe it’s really pianissimo and too delicate to discern in the rain. Either way, it would be cool if an architect, an engineer, and a musician got together to make this happen properly in Vancouver, where it rains from time to time and there’s a deficit of whimsical exterior decoration. Maybe they could add a giant poodle, too.
(via) Portuguese design firm Studio Ivotavares are in the midst of repeating the cool trick they pulled off last year in the town of Aguedo. For all of July, a shopping street has been given a shading canopy of coloured umbrellas. Close your eyes and imagine these lovelies hanging over Gastown’s Water Street all the way from Carrall to Abbott. Also, it rains here, so… Photos by Patricia Almeida.
(via) Dig this makeshift cinema set up in a building’s doorway in Auckland, New Zealand. It was set up by local, fun-loving design group Oh.No.Sumo with the idea of engaging the public in an exciting way.
Drawing inspiration from the location, they realised that the surrounding bus stops and Laundromats created a place of ‘hard-waiting’ where social interaction was minimized.
Members of the public also often retreated into “the media offered on their phones”, resulting in even less interaction and a “separation and dislocation from an existing community”.
By displaying short movies in a public and easily accessible location, the ‘Stairway Cinema’ exchanges the individual experience for a “communal and social” one, transforming it into a “shared, fun and architecturally framed experience”.
There’s a lot of “hard waiting” in Vancouver. We think this would be a lot more fun that re-checking emails or playing Angry Birds in order to completely ignore the people waiting with us.
We’re not exactly bridge fetishists here at Scout, but we really dig a variety of them, especially if they aren’t for the exclusive use of automobiles. Bridges are – by definition – transformative; they take you places, and there’s something to be said for enjoying the journey. Hence our push last year for this amazing trampoline bridge across False Creek. Would you believe that the bigwigs at City Hall didn’t go for it? Anyway, now we’re turning our attention instead toward the idea of a garden bridge, like the one pictured above, which is currently being floated for London’s Thames River between the existing Blackfriars and Waterloo bridges. “It will be the slowest way to cross the river, as people will dawdle and lean on parapets and stare at the great cityscapes all around;” says UK actress Joanna Lumley, who is one of the lead advocates of the project, “but it will also be a safe and swift way for the weary commuter to make his way back over the Thames”.
Imagine your friend takes you to The Diamond in Gastown one night and you’ve never been there before. You walk in and the place is empty save for a couple of bearded man-men of the hipsteriffic mold. The room is stark – brassy, Victorian, lit by candle and kerosene – like the study of a successful, Bourbon-loving taxidermist. The beardmen sell you two “dark” pints for 12 cents while you’re still getting comfortable at the bar, but before you can properly reflect on that the room is filled with loud merrymakers in full-on Gassy Jack period dress (including two ladies of the night asking if you want to go upstairs – nice touch). A dude warns you that your face is on a “Wanted” poster and then a cop comes in and tries to arrest you for some Philadelphian crimes, but not before the good publican smashes a whisky bottle over his head and you’re ushered out with drinks unfinished and brains a-racing.
Money quote: “So I shouldn’t ask them if they have an iPhone 5 charger?”
Via Brooklyn and Improv Everywhere.
Just a couple of weeks ago, two college students and 27 volunteers at the Seattle Public Library broke the world record for the longest book domino chain with the successful and totally mesmerizing drop of some 2,131 tomes. It was done to promote the launch of the library’s 2013 Summer Reading Program, which focuses on getting children and teens into the written word. The especially cool thing is that the books used in the record breaking stunt will soon be going on sale to support the library, so the whole operation from start to finish was smart as hell (engagement + fundraising = win). The Vancouver Public Library offers great programming for kids – they do a great Summer Reading Club and a Book Camp – but it would be great to see them rise to this particular challenge. They have a whole bunch of open interior space – surely enough for the 2,132 books that would later be sold as record memorabilia – so the ball is in their court. Don’t let us down!
Four sheep from Ouessent Island, off the coast of Brittany, were selected to take over a gardener’s job, and also for their small size—they stand barely over two-feet tall, and are considered hardy and too small to be eaten—which makes them easier to transport between sites.
Over the next six months, the grass-guzzling living ‘lawn-mowers’ need to keep a 2,000-square meter grass patch neatly trimmed, as a trial. And if the low-tech program (known as eco-grazing) is successful, sheep will be seen replacing mechanical lawnmowers throughout the French capital’s public spaces.
The black shaggy sheep are seen as an environmentally-friendly alternative, as they reduce cost, noise and air pollution, and the use of pesticides and fuel—and they help fertilize plants as well.
“Motorized lawn mowers make a lot of noise, and they also consume fossil fuels and sometimes electricity,” Fabienne Giboudeaux, Paris City Hall’s director of Green Spaces told BBC. “It’s not very rewarding work for gardeners, pushing these machines around. It’s tiring.”
When reached for comment on the local viability of such a project, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson simply said “Baaaaah.” (ok, not really)
(via) miLES is a group based out of the Lower East Side of Manhattan that aims to repurpose and temporarily lease out upwards of 200 vacant retails spaces for events and pop-up shops. In an interview with Fast Company, founder Eric Ho likened the service to “Zipcar or AirBnb for storefronts,” aiming to capture and commodify “the time between when they find the long-term tenant to occupy the space […] to bring back something valuable for the community.” With so many vacant retail spaces in Vancouver, it would be great to see more of them utilized as business incubators by local creatives and first-time entrepreneurs who aren’t quite ready for (or capable of affording) prime time. As regular readers are well aware, Vancouver certainly isn’t a stranger to the pop-up concept, but we see nowhere near as many as we could. We have the requisite diversity of people and product to fill a large number of the city’s vacant addresses. All that’s missing is a local service that functions similarly to miLES. So, someone, would you please…
You know the 7ft. tall porcelain “Main Street Poodle” sculpture at Main & 17th that recently caused a NIMBY uproar because it cost $100,000 and “just doesn’t fit” with the neighbourhood? Pfft, that’s nothing. Check this puppy out. The massive installation by LA-based artist Richard Jackson sees a gigantic dog peeing yellow paint all over the side of the Orange County Museum of Art (…because art). Where do you think it would it show best in Vancouver? In other words, what should it pee on?
Update: the correct answer is real estate marketers.