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Bing Thom & The Future of Our City

As winter is officially upon us and one more week of 2016 remains, it is certainly the perfect time for us to reflect on lessons learned, remember those who are not with us, and look forward to the future. Many tout 2016 was a tough year for loss of notable folks, and that will continue to ring true with a larger, aging population among us.

At this time, we would like to acknowledge & remember Mr. Bing Thom, who was an innovative, visionary leader in the architecture & design community both locally and globally. It was a pleasure to attend Bing Thom and The Future of Our City, a tribute and dialogue event in honour of the late founder of the architectural and urban design practice based in Vancouver, Hong Kong, and Washington, DC. Westbank is a continuous collaborative partner with Bing Thom Architects (BTA), and they hosted the evening earlier this month at the Rio Theatre, stemming from their salon series, Gwerk.

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Dedicated “to city building and the creation of beautiful buildings”, Westbank references Gwerk as a short form of Gesamtkunstwerk to describe their philosophy behind their body of work. Pronounced “get-zahmt-KOONST-VAIRK”, the German phrase was popularized by Richard Wagner in the mid-19th century and translates to “life as a total work of art”. Rather than a traditional sale office / presentation centre, the Beach & Howe development with Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Vancouver House, also programmed the space as a contemporary building exhibition in 2014.

Westbank’s President and CEO, Ian Gillespie, opened up our evening at the Rio Theatre with a personal reflection of his relationship with Bing. From sailing trips to the drawing board, he noted Mr. Thom was always one to challenge misconceptions, challenge the status quo, and did not present the same old, same old. In the same vein, Helen, who is BTA’s Director of Marketing & Communications, shared her insight of their everyday office culture, working alongside Bing, her observations of his genuine connection and those that were affected by his daily kindness.

Bing Thom & the Future of our City - Panel

The night was intentionally organised in the heart of Grandview-Woodland, as Bing, Westbank, Crombie REIT and their respective teams continue to engage in the revitalization of the site at Broadway and Commercial. “We have the chance to develop a design vision that can bring the community together to create a legacy project for the city’s most diverse and creative neighbourhood. Can we rise to the challenge?,” Bing provocatively anticipated back in September. There is no doubt that Bing has left us with a great legacy in Vancouver, Canada and beyond. BTA Principal Michael Heeney closed the speaker installment of the evening with a chronicle of the firm’s past successes, from the start of his career at BTA in the early 80s to the most recent Surrey City Central projects including SFU Surrey and the City Centre Library. Other highlights included nautral light control and illuminating of the Pacific Canada Pavilion, natural amphitheatres at Vancouver’s Sunset Community Centre, historic preservation and small library renovation(s) in Washington, DC, flood mitigation for Fort Worth’s Trinity Uptown Plan, and working with Canadian Landscape Architect, Cornelia Oberlander, on the Chan Centre.

A poignant story Michael shared about Bing’s professional approach and creative genius was the North West Territories Pavilion for Expo 86. Heeney indicated that the budget was approximately $2.8M, whereas their work for Expo 92’s Canadian Pavilion in Seville, Spain was a whopping $40M. Michael believes the project with the smaller budget had greater success, as it was multi-faceted, including Bing’s incorporation of film. “He had a holistic approach. [Which reminds us all] You can’t limit yourself to architecture,” Michael notes about Bing.

A common thread in BTA’s work shown is the lessons and cues from previous projects that are obviously and not-so obviously carried over to new ones. One particular client, the City of Surrey, was so pleased that they rebranded their new identity to boast “the future lives here” with a silhouette of buildings that have a striking resemblance to BTA’s completed project.

The City Centre library proves that the contemporary library is not exclusively a silent place anymore and that a variety of spaces can (and perhaps should) be intended for a variety of activities over time. The practice of landscape architecture and urban design focuses on this area a lot – the Third Place. Derived from Ray Oldenburg’s The Great Good Place, the third place is apart from the other two places: our home and our work places. Michael segues into the panel discussion portion of the evening reminding us that the third place will continue to have an important role in the community as more of us live in smaller spaces.

The lively panel discussion that followed acquainted us with moderator Leslie Van Duzer (SALA Professor), Charles Montgomery (Happy City author), Bruce Haden (Vancouver architect and Board Member at The Vancouver Urbanarium Society), Sonja Trauss (founder of San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation), and Michael who spoke earlier. The breadth of the discussion was the timely topic of housing affordability and designing for youth and children. “I want the most interesting people to live here,” Bruce proclaimed. “It is also a responsibility to my children to live in a place with the most interesting people.” While Ian sees Bing as a “disruptor”, Bruce’s additional thought was that Bing was an ultimate pragmatist: “he was profoundly able to understand [aspects of a project] from finances to urbanism, and that allowed him to do extraordinary things.”

In order to achieve the range of social experiences, sustainability, and longevity that is being advocated for, we certainly need leaders that think like Bing has. An approach that celebrates the past, present and future, like BTA’s team has in their work. The panel acknowledged the need for social coherence and durability in our buildings. “New residents come whether or not there are new residences to live in,” Sonja reminded us. The panel concluded that looking to other living typologies and options is a matter of proactivity and preparation to prevent crowding and circumstances that may be a threat to public health. The task is not simply city building of yesteryear, but to inspire activities, places for children, support housing and work.

Trick or Treat Count - BTA

A significant piece of the picture is the steadfast arm of urban research that BTA has, directed by Andy Yan. The firm partners with Vancouver Sun every year to do a “Trick-or-Treat count”, tallying up visitors every Halloween. The result is a rewarding visual map of Vancouver proper that highlights where it is most likely one can get a full chocolate bar. Though our North American tradition of stocking up on extra sugar may not be the healthiest, Heeney, Yan et al. may imply that neighbourhoods with more children are healthier ones.

We were left with thoughtful reminders and questions to ask: encourage more places for children and families in the city; encourage more gathering places apart from home and work which may also fold into a place we have a right to protest — a public space, per Leslie Van Duzer. Last but not least, Charles asks: Who is the city for?

How can we participate? We hope to continue to share these stories and dialogue in the community. Thanks to BTA x Westbank for inpsiring us and helping us remember Bing. We are obliged to announce we will be working with both teams on the Commercial Broadway site, and look forward to what 2017 brings for Vancouver! Merry Holidays and a Happy New Year, from the Hapa Team!

Hapa in Seattle

As last month gave us record-breaking amounts of rainfall, us Hapsters intercepted that streak… by visiting the other rain city— Seattle. Our Pacific Northwestern neighbours became our team’s destination at the beginning of November. From simple refreshers to new places to remember, the 2016 Hapster retreat saw nineteen of us strong (including two cute babies) covering a lot of ground in only 2 ½ days. Fortunately, we were only covered by a little bit of rain on our last day.

We had the opportunity to explore much of Downtown, as well as the vicinity of: South Lake Union, Capitol Hill, First Hill, Belltown, and Lower Queen Anne. Highlights of our stay include: walking across from our hotel to see PWP Landscape Architecture’s United States Federal Courthouse; tinkering around Seattle Center Artists at Play by Site Workshop (with Trimpin, Judith Caldwell and Highwire) by the freshly branded MoPop museum (formerly EMP Museum); popping by Westlake Park; meeting our contemporary art quotas at the Henry Art Gallery (especially James Turrell Skyspace Light Reign); sailing through the green roof atop SAM/Russell Investments Centre (formerly Washington Mutual and Chase Centre) by PFS Studio; walking through GGN’s Lower Rainier Vista at University of Washington campus; and a quick visit to Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (also by GGN). Of course, we also had to make a stop at Peter Miller Books and the stunning Chapel of St. Ignatius by Steven Holl. More highlights in photos captured by some of us on this very page.

Seattle, we enjoyed the many small places to meet in the midst of your seemingly vast streetscape. Though our stay was short and sweet, #hapainseattle 2016 was not short of great insights, inspiration, innovation and craft beer goodness. Thanks to our fellow Hapsters Shelley and Laura (aka Long and MacD!) for organising our inaugural Hapster trivia night.

A special thanks to Bernie Alonzo and Grant Stewart of GGN for their time in walking us through the University of Washington.

YVR - SEA
From Where We Stand
Courthouse

Details
Details 2

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Sanctuary RIC Rooftop
Downtown 1
Downtown 2

Upgarden
Downtown 3
Downtown 4

Westlake 1
Westlake 2

University of Washington Campus with GGN

University of Washington Campus with GGN

UofWA Fountain
James Turrell Skyspace @ Henry

Courthouse 2
Sculpture Park

Chromer Building Parklet & Streatery by GGN.

Chromer Building Parklet & Streatery by GGN.


Green Wall

Artists at Play
Artists At Play 2
Artists At Play 2

Water Fountain

LM

Westlake Park
PostElection
HA
St. Ignatius
St. Ignatius 3
St. Ignatius 2
Trivia
Trivia

Trivia

Bonus question: Hapa Coat of Arms Designs, ad hoc.

Bonus question: Hapa Coat of Arms Designs, ad hoc.

Serious Pie

Seriously some of the best pizza @ Serious Pie.


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