In late 2010 a decision was made to keep Carleton Elementary in Vancouver open. At the time I was looking for a location to work on for my urban design assignment. It seemed interesting to contemplate what that location could become if it did shut down.
I was also and still am involved in a community exploration of ideas relating to amenities that our neighborhood could benefit from. We know that if we had a list of priorities, contributions made by new developments through various levies could go to proper causes. In my assignment I tried to employ the list of priorities when working on my proposal.
Any first step of analysis leads me through three basic questions:
- What is it that we have?
- What do we want?
- What do we need?
So what is it that we have?
Walking up and down the streets surrounding the school yard very quickly brought me to imagine this location to be a cultural center. I called it ‘The Guy’ with a wink to the historical values this place has and the need to bring it up to date with current days’ lifestyle and energy.
Indeed the reality of this location can be seen as both a challenge and opportunity. This place is noisy and rattly. But much of that traffic can also become a source of visitors. The Joyce Skytrain station close by expands the potential of mass access to the site.
What do we want?
In the Collingwood Neighborhood House on Joyce street, a process of ongoing consultations with residents of the neighborhood resulted in what is currently a draft of “a community-based strategy to identify and secure social, cultural and recreational amenities in Renfrew-Collingwood. The strategy calls for
- Ongoing Communications with the City
- Affordable Housing
- Community Facilities
- Community-Based Arts and Culture
- Public Spaces
The objective of the strategy is to establish a process in partnership with City, relevant senior government ministries and the private sector, so that priorities identified by the neighborhood can be implemented in keeping with the area’s current needs.”
Along Kingsway between Boundary Road and Nanaimo Street, developments are in various stages of completion or approval.
The Guy Carleton School site is conveniently located to serve the anticipated flow of potential audience.
Within the lower mainland, a cultural hub in this location looks like a project waiting to be initiated.
What do we need?
It has been shown that the neighborhood’s residents are committed to the historic value of this place. My proposal starts with moving the two room schoolhouse in line with the two bigger structures. This would form the Heritage Row that should provide a compelling sense of continuity and progress in a historical context.
Buildings along Kingsway will be a logical filler of function between residences to the west and commercial spaces to the east.
More spaces of various scales and uses should provide room for programming.
The spaces between the buildings are as important as the buildings themselves.
The layout presented is mostly a case for studying ideas. Some of them might be a better fit in other locations; some could be integrated into one and so on.
When we ask these questions, they always have more than one answer. What they also do is raise more questions. The fascinating challenge and responsibility is to provide solutions that address as many of the community’s needs in a balanced way. In this case, I hope we are heading towards a creatively productive process.