re:CONNECT. Asking the right questions.

Just after submitting my entry to the re:CONNECT competition I flew off for a two and a half weeks visit in Israel. Our families are spread around the country so we found ourselves travelling quite a lot on the roads and freeways between north and south. It was a great opportunity to get a fresh glimpse of development and its impact on the landscape in a society I am still connected to. The Vancouver viaducts that were never turned into part of a freeway are definitely a case worthy of careful development.

In the past few years there seems to have been a public discussion whether the viaducts should be removed or retained. Whichever decision is made, they are part of this city’s fabric and history. Through sensitive examination of visions and realities, we can take the opportunity to build for the future based on the stories of our past and present. Three questions guided me through this study: what we want; what we have and what we need. I believe that ordering the questions this way leads to a balanced discussion. However, my own mind keeps jumping between the three. In the title to my presentation I’ve visually illustrated this.

Want-Have-Need

What we want

Usually a source of much debate and contention. Even a single household can have its conflicts over the smallest of decisions. The interests in a city where economies always play a significant role will probably never be settled over a polite cup of tea. Nevertheless, considering we all have similar basic human needs, what might look like a long list can eventually be grouped into a few simple topics.

What we have

It is always fascinating to search for references and stumble upon pieces of information that generate valuable insight. I’ve divided my findings into structural and social references.

My visits to the area have also been a source of insight and inspiration. The sense of connection to a place increases dramatically after walking it extensively. Occasional talks with residents and passers by provided even more depth to my impressions.

What we need

The city is a tool that serves the needs of humans. The spaces we build have an impact over the various interactions we have. When trying to consider plans for the future shape of our city, we need to be aware of its history. What people are doing in the urban space and how – is the invisible structure that is as important as the built environment they occupy.

As for the viaducts, it’s not about whether they are needed as much as how to keep using them. To some they might seem as part of Vancouver’s quirks. To others they are a menace. Most people seem to simply use them this way or the other. A city with character – “a great city” – is built on a history of living with its imperfections. A mature society grows to embrace its city for the benefit of the people living in it as well as for its visitors.

Advance to the analysis.

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