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How to get to city hall : a civic space re-considered Woodend, Avril 2004

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How to Get to City Hall: A Civic Space Re-considered. By Avril Woodend B.A. (English) Simon Fraser University, 1996 A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Landscape Architecture In The Faculty of Graduate Studies Department of Landscape Architecture University of British Columbia We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard The University of British Columbia November 2004 © Woodend, Avril L, 2004 Abstract: Vancouver 's present day city hall sits at 453 west 12 l avenue in Vancouver. This thesis is a design exploration of the city hall site and the associated concept of 'civic space' as this relates to the design of public space in a contemporary urban setting. The methods of investigating the design problems posed by the site consist of 1) a literature review, which examines the work of designers and academics interested in civic space, and 2) a set of precedent studies. The precedent studies look at a broad range of other civic spaces and pubic facilities. These 2 elements form the theoretical framework for the design problem. The specific design exploration begins with a design framework derived from the literature review, the precedent studies, and site analysis. The framework emphasizes the relationship between civic space and civic life, the need for more physical and perceptual access to both city hall and local government, and the importance of improving the sense of ceremony and symbolism evident at the City Hall site. From the design framework the thesis study moves to graphic design explorations and looks at study options that were generated. A site program for City Hall is explored and finally a detailed site design including a master plan and detailed design drawings are presented. The design drawings generated incorporate the concepts highlighted in the design framework and provide a graphic exploration of the ways in which the civic space at Vancouver City Hall could be expanded and improved. Table of Contents: Abstract: U Table of Contents: Hi Acknowledgements: v List of Figures: ; vi. CHAPTER ONE: OVERVIEW AND SUMMARY 1 1.1 INTRODUCTION 1 1.2 THESIS GOAL:.. 2 1.3 THESIS OBJECTIVES: 2 1.4 THEORETICAL BASIS: 3 1.5 METHODOLOGY : 4 CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW . 5 2.1 INTRODUCTION: 4 5 2.2 OVERVIEW: CITIZENSHIP AND PUBLIC SPACE 5 2.3 CIVIC SPACE: USE AND MEANING.. 6 2.4 CONCLUSION: 9 CHAPTER THREE: DESIGN PRECEDENTS 11 3.1 INTRODUCTION: .11 3.2 THE PAST:THE PIAZZA DEL CAMPO- THE ULTIMATE CIVIC SPACE? 12 3.3 THE PRESENT: CONTEMPORARY CITY HALLS 12 3.4 THE FUTURE: THE REICHSTAG, BERLIN 13 CHAPTER FOUR: SITE ANALYSIS AND DESIGN FRAMEWORK 14 4.1 INTRODUCTION AND SITE OVERVIEW. 14 4.2 SITE HISTORY 14 4.3 SITE ANALYSIS 16 4.4 CONCLUSION & DESIGN FRAMEWORK 18 CHAPTER FIVE: INITIAL DESIGN EXPLORATIONS 31 5.1 INTRODUCTION: : 31 5.2 EXPANSION STUDY: ISSUES 31 5.3 TWO STUDY OPTIONS: GETTING FORM... 31 5.4 DEMOCRACY IN VIEW: PRECEDENT FORMS 32 CHAPTER SIX: SITE DESIGN. 34 6.1 PROGRAMMATIC VISION: 34 6.2 MASTER PLAN: (fig 15) 34 i i i 6.3 DESIGN EXPRESSION & DETAILS: 49 6.4 CONCLUSION: 49 Works Cited: 50 iv Acknowledgements: Many thanks to my thesis committee, Douglas Paterson, Susan Herrington and Don Luymes, of the UBC Landscape Architecture Department, and Alan Duncan of the City of Vancouver Planning department. List of Figures: „ page 20 Figure 1 • K a „ : page 20 Figure 2 • K a 0 page 15 Figure 3 F a . • page 21 Figure 4 v a _ page 16 Figure 5 K a page 22 Figure 6 • K a page 23 Figure 7 K a _. „ page 24 Figure 8 K a page 25 Figure 9 K a page 26 Figure 10 , p a page 27 Figure 11 K a page 28 Figure 12 F a A n page 29 Figure 13 K a A A - page 30 Figure 14 K a page 38 Figure 15 K a .„ page 39 Figure 16 K a page 40 Figure 17 F a page 41 Figure 18 H a page 42 Figure 19 K a o r i page 43 Figure 20 K a ,_. page 44 Figure 21 p a page 45 Figure 22 F a 0 0 page 46 Figure 23 • ; p a page 47 Figure 24 H a page 48 Figure 25 v a VI CHAPTER ONE: OVERVIEW AND SUMMARY 1.1 INTRODUCTION Public space within the city is generally conceived of in terms of parks, streets, plazas, and 'found' spaces that exist somewhere between these other categories. Another term that is often used interchangeably with "public" is the word '"civic." In common speech this term has come to mean simply "of the city," so that open spaces, parks, etc within the city limits are often described as 'civic,' meaning municipal space. However, I would argue that civic space is potentially a category or sub-set of public space that is quite distinct. I feel this distinction hinges on the idea that civic space is potentially much more consciously identified with the culture, history, and politics of the city. In contrast to a corporate plaza, a recreational green space, or many other types of public space, the idea of "civic" specifically connotes local history, vernacular political culture, and the idea of citizenship, as these pertain to a specific urban setting. Because of this connotation, these spaces can become places for, (along with other more prosaic uses) local ceremonies, celebrations, and acts of political expression that are distinctly "civic" in nature. I.e. specifically concerned with the joys and frustrations of life at the scale of the city. The tradition of civic space has a long and varied history across the world. In its early formulations, the space (both physical and symbolic) of the town or city hall, courthouse, and civic square was generally central to the social, economic and political identity of the community it represented, and there are certainly towns and cities where this still holds true today. However, there can be little doubt that both the concept and the form of civic space have undergone and continue to undergo dramatic change as a result of economic, cultural and political forces that originate far outside the city boundaries. Many theorists have suggested that the civic realm and the built form that symbolizes it have taken on a new level of difficulty in the current age of media and commodity dominated "global" culture. Do we as urban dwellers still derive a primary sense of belonging or identification from the civic realm? Does the onslaught of global culture render this idea increasingly irrelevant or, conversely, more critical than ever before? What strategies do city makers employ to make or re-consider civic space in the context of the expanding global culture? Finally, the most relevant question for this thesis is simply, how can turning our attention to the notion of the "civic" work to enrich the design/interpretation of a civic space in a city such as Vancouver? In a local context, I would argue that one local civic space that ought to occupy a pre-eminent position is City Hall at 12 th and Cambie in Vancouver. The public space that surrounds the buildings at City Hall is, potentially, highly significant in relation to Vancouver's sense of civic identity. Apart from the fact that City Hall is the locus of daily city-making, there is a great deal of potential for civic place-making in the location, orientation, topography, and built form of the City Hall, one site that has yet to be realized in any direct way. The design interventions that have taken place on the site have failed to capitalize on this potential. The "park" area between City Hall and 10 t h avenue is substantially unchanged, at least aesthetically, from the public park that existed there from the early 1900's onwards, prior to construction of City Hall on the 1 site. A civic plaza or a formal garden has been considered at different points but the most remarkable thing about the public space at city hall is the extent to which it has remained unaddressed. This lack of intervention has interesting implications for Vancouver's civic identity, or lack thereof. Numerous theorists have suggested that there is an obvious (though often poorly understood) relationship between a city's built form and its political and cultural life, and in this case it's tempting to speculate that the extreme level of apathy characteristic of civic politics in Vancouver (Stewart, 1997) has some connection to the paucity of meaningful civic space in the city. While the space around the Vancouver Art Gallery is often used as a place for civic protests and informal civic gatherings, as one theorist recently pointed out, most of the strong and distinctive public space in the city is to be found "at the edges" rather than at the centre and activity there largely consists of passive contemplation of the view. (Berelowitz, 1989) Examining how the public space at City Hall has evolved and understanding the constraints and opportunities involved in the process are part of the inquiry of this thesis. This thesis project itself is strongly future-oriented however. The planned expansion of the City Hall site, which has been considered for some time and must eventually be seriously proposed, has been used to establish the practical and theoretical parameters for this design exploration. The eventual expansion of the city hall facilities will provide an opportunity to re-consider the nature and quality of the civic space on the site. 1.2 THESIS GOAL: The goal of this thesis is to expand the manifest understanding of civic space at the site of Vancouver City Hall through 1) a critical exploration of notions of "the civic" as this relates to design theory, and 2) to undertake a design exploration that considers these theoretical elements in relation to the specific nature of the Vancouver City Hall site. 1.3 THESIS OBJECTIVES: The objectives of this thesis project are as follows: 1) To explore different options for site organization and built form at the existing city hall site, particularly as these apply to possible expansion of the site. 2) To explore ways to increase the extent and quality of flexible public space at the city hall site. 3) To improve both physical and visual access to existing areas of the site. 4) To articulate the unique/dramatic aspects of the site that are currently obscured and/or neglected. 5) To strengthen the number and effectiveness of connections between the site and its context. 6) To respect and complement existing heritage elements of the site through design. 2.. 1.4 T H E O R E T I C A L BAS I S : A s both a philosophical perspective and a branch of critical theory, Hermeneutics, (a term which comes from the Greek word hermeneia which means "explanation", or • -.• "interpretation,") can be broadly understood as the science of interpretation. (Mugerauer, 1994) A s opposed to a positivist perspective, which assumes that a "true" and objective version of facts or events is attainable, hermeneutics emphas izes the act of interpretation, and recognizes that interpretation is situated and circumstantial. (Mugerauer, 1994). At a basic level a Hermeneutic inquiry is analogous to the process of reading and interpreting a text, an experience common enough that one doesn't often stop to think about how fundamental the act of interpretation is to the generation of meaning. In the design field, Hermeneutics has been posited as both 1) a means of interpreting the built environment and 2) a design approach in which new or recovered place meaning can occur from a " critical yet imaginative re-interpretation of our tradition (past)." (Corner, 1991, 127) In the first case , a Hermeneutic reading of a built landscape can be a way to ground understanding of that place in meanings that have become obscured over time, by interpreting historical and symbol ic aspects. Beyond the simple objective or 'factual' accounts of a place, such a reading encourages a critical re-reading of cultural and historical phenomena, especial ly those that have been "given" and taken for granted. (Mugerauer, 1994) In the second case, critics such as J ames Corner have argued that a Critical/ Hermeneutic design approach can consist of "cultivating traditions from within," and thus "enables re-cognition: a knowing of things anew."(Corner 128) In both cases the critical dimension of a hermeneutic perspective involves an attempt to be cognizant of one's own historically situated bias and to understand how the landscape as a text holds meaning that can be both interpreted and transformed. This thesis intends to use a hermeneutic approach as a starting point for both theory and design. A s a tool for interpreting the layers of both social and material history on the City Hall site, Hermeneut ics is a way of looking beyond the physical realm at the symbol ic and textual layers of meaning that have accrued over time. This approach necessitates a c lose reading of the accumulated social history of both the site and the city, in order to ensure that any act of critical re-interpretation is grounded in historical phenomena and meaning. 3 1.5 M E T H O D O L O G Y : The methodology involves four basic stages: a Literature review examining connections between civic identity and the design of civic spaces; precedent studies for civic spaces that suggest strategies, models, and dynamics; an exploration of preliminary design options for site and precinct, focusing on issues related to potential expansion of site, and finally, the generation of a master plan and detailed site design The next chapter introduces the theoretical concepts that will form the critical context for the design exploration. The literature review will introduce arguments made by different writers from a variety of perspectives and then attempt to identify points of connection between these theorists relevant to the making of civic space. The design precedent section, which follows the literature review, will similarly attempt to situate a number of examples of other civic spaces from around the world within the context of the theoretical discussion. The site analysis chapter that follows will present an analysis of the site and a preliminary design framework that will attempt to synthesize site data as it relates to the ideas set up by the literature review and precedent study. 4 CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW Through participation and conversation, we reproduce our social meanings through time: what culture is. Squares and institutions, walkways and stadiums, these are the places where the dreams of a people are realized in stone and iron, glass and air. They are sites of politics, not merely of design or style, or rather here design and style are themselves aspects of the political. (Kingwell, 2000,17) 2.1 INTRODUCTION: The literature review to follow, (which is highly selective in relation to the vast amount of design theory available), will attempt to situate the concerns of this thesis project within a critical context. Additionally it will explore the work of several writers in greater depth in order to examine arguments specific to the making of civic space, (as distinct from the larger continuum of public space.) 2.2 OVERVIEW: CITIZENSHIP AND PUBLIC SPACE At the broadest level, there are a great many theorists, from a variety of fields, writing today on issues related to the city and the changing nature of the public realm. Opinions range widely. Some writers discuss what they see as the emancipatory potential of global capitalism and its practices of consumption, spectacle, and virtual community, (e.g. Henaff & Strong 2001) Many others are considerably less optimistic (e.g. Sennet 1990, Sorkin 1992) and focus on the privatization of public space in the city and the alienating effects of global capitalism. M. Christine Boyer summarizes many of the most salient points very effectively in the introduction to her text The City of Collective Memory: its Historical imagery and Architectural Entertainments. She writes: "As the importance of public space in the center of cities has waned - in part the result of explosive privatization that both the rise of the suburbs and the media revolution have engendered- then private space becomes more valued than public places. Most civic improvement schemes and inner -city spatial recyclings play on this inversion of values - creating private preserves for the wealthy that are then transformed into "public amenities" by allowing a select group of people to stroll unimpeded along their corridors and spaces of power. Yet even this contemporary reference to the public is a universalizing construct that assumes there is a collective whole, while in reality the city's public is fragmented into marginalized groups, many of whom have no access to or voice and representation in the public spaces of our revitalized and gentrified cities. (Boyer, 1994, 9) This second category of theorists often frame their discussion around the challenge that the forces of globalization represent, either implicitly or explicitly, to the values of democracy and the civic. In the introduction to Variations on a Theme Park: the New American City and the End of Public Space, Michael Sorkin writes that the threat .represented by the new American city is that it stands as "a substitute for the democratic public realm." He continues by stating that "...In the 'public' spaces of the theme park or the shopping mall, speech itself is restricted: there are no demonstrations in Disneyland," and concludes with no less of a sweeping statement than "the effort to reclaim the city is the struggle of democracy itself." (Sorkin, 1992, xv) In a related argument, writers such as Murray Bookchin, (pioneer in the field of social ecology), also address the effects of global capitalism and its effects on the nature of democracy and citizenship. Bookchin argues that the ongoing process of "urbanization," with its "smothering traits of anonymity, homogenization, and institutional giganticism" is engulfing both rural areas and cities alike, "devouring city life based on the values, culture, and institutions nourished by civic relationships." (Bookchin 1992,3) Specifically, he argues that this process has disastrous consequences for our (western) practices and conception of citizenship. Bookchin points out that whereas cities in the past were more often "communities of the heart" (6) with a strong belief in the city as a place to live the good life, the contemporary city is becoming an "immense, overbearing, and anonymous marketplace." (203) Consequently, as our market economy becomes a market society, (217) much of the original meaning of the term citizen is lost; subsumed in our increasingly commercial Understanding of reality. As Bookchin states, "the reduction of the citizen to a "taxpayer," constituent," or part of an "electorate" (12) is a profound debasement of a once fundamental category that embodied "the classical ideals of brotherhood, autonomy, rationality, and, above all, civic commitment." (55) Even though these theorists like Bookchin and Sorkin come from very different perspectives, the point of connection in their work is a common interest in the consequences of globalization for public life and the public spaces of the city. There are strong parallels between the erosion of the role of the citizen and the concurrent erosion of public space in the city. Increasingly, both are conceived of almost exclusively in commercial terms, their earlier meaning lost in the onslaught of the culture of consumption. 2.3 CIVIC SPACE: USE AND MEANING There is a wealth of urban design literature that deals with types, principles and permutations of public space. Theory specific to civic space is more difficult to come by however, in large part because, as all-ready discussed, the terms are often used vaguely or even interchangeably in design discussions. For instance in their text, Public Space: use etc., authors Stephen Carr, Mark Francis, etc. (Carr et al,1992) discuss the social, functional, and symbolic forces that shape public life in the contemporary city and note that it is impossible to discuss public space "without recognizing the political nature of public activities" (Carr et al,1992, 45) and acknowledging the link between public spaces and their fundamental role as facilitators of democratic society. Their discussion encompasses many of the aspects of the civic without actually using the term specifically. Other writers have addressed the topic of civic space explicitly however, and several of these will be addressed in this section. 2.3.1 Lynn Hollen Lees There is an interesting body of literature that looks at the use of distinct civic spaces over time, specifically as this relates to acts of public expression and the way that civic 6 spaces either accommodate or discourage this practice. In one of these, a study of contemporary Los Angeles, author Lynn Hollen Lees examines the relationship between the amount and nature of civic space in LA and other large cities and specifically addresses the quality of community use and protest in the "radically . decentralized" (Lees, 1994, 445) contemporary city of the sort that Michael Sorkin et al address. Lees finds that even where there is no lack of "public" or "green" space, what is often missing in contemporary cities like Los Angeles "...is not public space, but civic space where communal activities link citizens." (450) She examined several examples of highly "politicized" civic spaces in other large cities such as Berlin and Beijing, and then compared these examples with Los Angeles. She found in part that "...if we check the sites of the larger protest movements in Los Angeles over the past twenty-five years, we see that they have no common geography. Their decentred quality is striking. Groups picked the spaces that were ready to hand, rather than identifiable civic spots."(455) It's important to note at this point that LA does have a large "civic" precinct downtown, replete with a city hall, a hall of records, hall of justice, and the U.S. federal courthouse. According to Lees' critique and that of others however, the area has virtually no significance in the public memory of the city, in spite of its "monumental architecture and acres of carefully designed open space." (450) She concludes that the decentralized nature of protest in this city exists in part because "people have no central place to occupy to attract attention; no square to seize to assert symbolic power." One of the effects of this lack of civic space is that, "in the absence of effective political targets, anger has been confined within their own neighbourhoods." (454) Lees concludes that this dynamic, in turn, intensifies the effects of marginalization in the city because " too many citizens can simply see the problem as happening elsewhere among people unlike themselves." (455) Several points emerge from a study like Lees'. One is the issue of cultural diversity and the use of civic space. Lees writes that "the idea of citizenship is being stretched to encompass cultural diversity, not always successfully." (462) In a city like LA with a large population of different minority and ethnic groups, "the monuments and sacred places of the past do not always harmonize with the many identities of the present." (462) Consequently, as Lees discusses, different ethnic groups have constructed their own spaces for celebration and community events, further complicating the possibility of a civic space that brings people together across racial, ethnic and political boundaries. Another and related point is that "civic" architecture is not enough. As Lees argues," the investing of a public space with civic significance requires far more than artful design. History, public memory, and political legitimation come into play. The most successful public spaces have multiple identities and symbolic power."(446) In other words, these elements cannot be "designed" into being but accrue over time and with use. 2.3.2 Peter G. Rowe Another author who has addressed the idea of civic space explicitly, is Peter G. Rowe, dean of Architecture at Harvard University. In his text Civic Realism, Rowe directly addresses the creation of urban places that are civic in character, "belonging to everyone and yet to nobody in particular."(Rowe, 1997,.6) Rowe investigates how civic places have come about in a variety of different times and places, discussing specific examples ranging from Central Park in New York to the Piazza del Campo in Sienna and finds common dynamics and processes at work amongst examples that range as widely in scope and scale as they do in location. He also examines the social, political and cultural background that influenced these.places, addressing what he calls the "broad processes and attitudes behind civic place making." (6). Civic Realism, the term that he has coined to embody these attitudes is described as "both a resistive and an affirmative way of working with what is on hand and of making urban environments with that perspective in mind:" (225) The body of Rowe's text covers a good deal of ground. He addresses the role of the state and civil society in the construction of civic, spaces, the aesthetic and architectural dimensions of realism, individual and collective uses of urban space, and how civic places constitute as well as.represent the civic aspects of our lives. In discussing the civic, Rowe.spends a good deal of time exploring how civil society occupies a middle ground between the public and private political realms. He also examines the way in which the term civic "represents a view about public conduct." (204) Specifically, that it denotes something "worthy of being seen and heard in public "and requires some type of "convergent or communitarian concept to which people's conduct can correspond." (204) It may connote some form of authority, but one that must be distinguished by "the utmost tolerance and respect of others' beliefs and traits."(205) Rowe's discussion and use of the term "realism" in conjunction with "civic" defines one of the over-arching themes of his text. He states that, "• the crux of realism is a probing concern with everyday life." (116) For Rowe the terms "civic" and "real" both denote "an insistence on everyday life." (202) Taken together, they convey an "attitudinal and a practical habit of mind conducive to making places of collective significance." (202) He writes that "...civic-realist projects are inclusive but affirmative and relatively singular. Like the Piazza del Campo or Central Park they deliberately reach out through program, shape, and iconography to various constituencies of society and yet also propose something for society as a whole." (214) Importantly, however, Rowe argues that while "many publicly accessible spaces can have and should have a civic orientation that is direct, palpable, and there for the purposes of reminding us both of who we are and who we might become," (9) it is the elements of "sustained local use, collective comprehension, memory, and therefore, attachment" (38) that makes an urban space truly civic in nature. In reference to the privatization of public space, as discussed by Sorkin and others, Rowe posits that "the current perceived crisis in public space making is often less a matter of inadequate design technique as it is a muddled uncertainty about appropriate relationships between the state and civil society." (35) Rowe argues that civic spaces are distinguished by the fact that "the concept of something being civic lies somewhere between the private realm of one's experience and the public domain of officialdom. More important, it is produced by both spheres of activity and influence." (66) Rowe reiterates this point several times, also stating that "it is along the politico-cultural division between civil society and the state that the urban architecture of the public realm is made best." (35) Thus neither "state edifices" nor "exclusive precincts and private realms"make effective civic space; instead many of the specific examples that Rowe cites to prove his point emerged in times and societies where the strength of the public and private spheres was roughly comparable. As a means of summarizing his discussion, Rowe identifies five "balancing, tests" for both "defining and maintaining civic realism and for initially helping to bring its qualities to the fore during the social production of urban space." (214) The first is that civic realism represents or expresses a pluralism of attitudes. Exclusivity or elitism is a clear failure of the test. The second test is that it presents a challenge to established orders, yet expresses a sense of common accord. As an example of this, Rowe cites a proposal for the U.S. courthouse in Boston which "reflects an active critique of prevalent forms of social justice" with the aim of expressing through architecture, "every citizen's right to equal access before the law." (215) The third test is that civic realism possesses a transcendental quality by providing a sense of something permanent in common. This can be accomplished through "adaptive re-use" as in New York's SoHo district, or through the use of specific iconographic elements that reference larger ideals. (216) The fourth test is an essential concern with everyday life, and the fifth is that civic realist places provide for collective practices and rituals, while still allowing for individual experience. (218) They are places where one can participate in a variety of activities, but they are also places that tend to put us on our best behaviour. As Rowe argues convincingly, Central Park as an example, "has a grandeur and a civic presence that transcends the more casual environments of every day play, and yet as a place to go it can be just as accommodating." (158) One of the strengths of Peter Rowe's text is that it is both critical and instrumental. Many design theorists focus almost exclusively on critique. Rowe offers specific examples, both historic and contemporary, that present alternative visions to the dystopic view of the city as "theme park." Similarly, the fact that he establishes clear criteria or "tests" for civic realism makes his (at times highly technical and abstruse) argument much more easily understood. Much of his text reinforces points all-ready made. Namely the very simple fact that a space can only become truly "civic" through collective attachment and meaning that, in the case of a site like the Campo in Sienna, may take many human lifetimes and very specific circumstances to accumulate. As Lyyn Hollen Lees' discussion also makes very clear, the fact that a precinct of the city has been given a civic designation by virtue of the municipal or public buildings that populate it, in many cases has no correlation to the use of the area as truly "civic" space. 2.4 CONCLUSION: In conclusion, the points for consideration that can be drawn from this partial review of the literature on civic space are these: • Urban public space in the contemporary city is often under threat from forces of corporate culture that erode truly public spaces in favour of quasi-private, often highly commercialized space. • The practice and conception of citizenship is also increasingly under threat from a global culture of consumption that subsumes all categories of human existence under that of "consumer." 9 Civic space is fundamental ly defined by people's emotional investment in a place. Meaning is created over time, through memory, everyday use, and symbolic s ignif icance. Elaborate or monumental architecture isn't sufficient to endow a space with the attributes of the civic. Certain qualities and attributes of built space may encourage use as civic space. If a space is inclusive rather than exclusive, singular rather than generic, has the potential to be conceived of as resistant (to establ ished order, authority, convention) has the "transcendent" quality of something permanent and/ or symbolic of the community it represents, and is flexible and rich enough to allow both collective and highly personal rituals and everyday uses, then over time it may take on a sense civic identity. There is a strong correlation between the quality of civic space and the quality of the local/civic democracy that both produces it, and is in turn produced by it. In other words, civic space both reflects and constitutes civic life. 10 CHAPTER THREE: DESIGN PRECEDENTS "The public building is not an abstract symbol, but partakes in daily life, which it relates to what is timeless and common." Christian Norberg-Schulz 3.1 INTRODUCTION: In contemporary western culture, the civic realm is strongly assoc ia ted with certain architectural forms and iconography. Simply speaking the term "city hall" or "town-square" can evoke these vernacular associat ions for many of us. A s Mary Ryan explores in her article "A Laudable Pride in the Whole of Us": City Halls and Civic Materialism, the term "city hall" with all of its associat ions, has a very distinct history in North Amer i ca . Ryan examines five Amer ican city halls of the 19 t h century and concludes that good public architecture can and continues to "infuse" the "prosaic acts of everyday cit izens with a sense of history" (Ryan 1170) She states in part that, "What Amer icans colloquially imagine as 'city hall ' is a unique focal point of the everyday, ordinary exper ience of cit izenship, a lay person's political practice that is se ldom articulated in a formal or literary way. The term itself was conjured up in the public imagination in the nineteenth century when it anchored the idea of government in a social space and shaped political expectat ions around a public meeting place, a hall." (Ryan, 1133) Thus the importance of the iconography of a historic city hall building is dual. On one hand it serves as a visual and experiential link to the local history and tradition of the city, but it can also be read as a three dimensional text that speaks about earlier notions of authority, the public realm, and city-making, connecting the individual citizen to the broader sweep of western democracy. Unfortunately this potential is too often compromised by the fact that, as J .B . Jackson said so well at one point, "the very term "public building" has become a contradiction: no one in his right mind now goes into a public building except on business. " ( Jackson, 1970, 158) The set of design precedents that follows looks at two types of precedents. One is a precedent set of civic spaces . These precedent studies will be utilized to examine some of the principles and models of civic space d iscussed in the literature review. The other type is a sampling of contemporary Canadian city halls, useful in examining some issues specif ic to the Canad ian political context. 3.2 THE PAST .THE PIAZZA DEL CAMPO- THE ULTIMATE CIVIC S P A C E ? The Piazza del Campo, or simply "the Campo" in Siena,. Italy, is often cited as an exemplary civic space. Construction of the Campo began in the 1300's, and the Campo has continued to serve the citizen's of Siena (and visitors) since that time. The Campo is distinguished by several features: the incremental nature of its construction and-evolution as an urban space, (Rowe,1997) it's formal and spatial qualities, which are often cited in urban design texts as exemplifying the fine grain of detail and the human-scaled elements required to make an urban space comfortable and easily inhabitable,(Gehl, 2001, 153) and the fact that in the words of one writer it is "a physical expression of the ideal of good government." (Hook, 1979, 74) Siena has a long history as a very partisan society, but the Campo has been and remains the great meeting room of the city where citizens converge for both yearly rituals like the Palio and everyday activities. Implications for civic space: The example of theCampo illustrates the importance of human scaled details, the primacy of the relationship between the space and its context, (all local roads literally lead to the Campo) and a strong local culture and sense of place (there is nowhere else like here.) 3.3 THE PRESENT: CONTEMPORARY CITY HALLS 3.3.1 Toronto City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square: Toronto City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square were designed by Finnish architect Viljo Revell, winner of the 1958 design competition. Constructed in 1961-64, Nathan Phillips Square serves as the forecourt to Revell's City Hall and has been variously described as "unequivocally modern, yet an urban ensemble that satisfies traditions of spatial definition" (Griffiths, 1989, 183), and "the great living room of Toronto," (Fulford, 1995) As an urban public square It serves all the traditional functions of a civic space: it is both a physical and symbolic "setting" for city hall, an effective site for celebrations and political demonstrations, as well as a flexible and informal gathering space for all seasons. The success of the square has been attributed to many factors, among them the strongly recognizable clarity of the architectural elements of both the building and square, (Fong, 1989, 43) and the simple fact that as an urban place it has managed to "capture the hearts of the citizens." (Dendy & Kilbourne, 1986) Implications for civic space: The monumental scale doesn't keep this place from being effective. In fact, it may be in part because of the scale that it seems open, inviting, and easily approachable. Again, this example emphasizes the importance of the place as somewhere distinctive and memorable; unlike anywhere else. 3.3.1 Missassauga City Hall This city hall complex is the result of a 1982 design competition won by Jones and Kirkland Architects. Their award winning scheme has been described (by Edward Jones himself) as "City Hall looking for a city", referring to the Building's unusually suburban setting. Situated on the outskirts of Toronto, the city of Missassauga was incorporated in 1974. At approximately 287 square kilometers, the city consists of pre-existing smaller centers and extensive amounts of subsequent suburban infill and low-density development. The City Hall complex was constructed in a low-density commercial/suburban setting that is intended to form the nucleus of a future civic area; the civic complex is intended to act as a catalyst for more development in the area: Described as "one of the boldest expressions of post-modernism in Canada" ((Maitland et al, 1992) the architecture is strongly iconic, meant to evoke both agricultural and vernacular civic structures. It has been widely discussed as an example of the post-modern practice of "quoting" earlier architectural forms. Implications for civic space: Much of the critical discussion about this example has focused almost exclusively on its formal aspects, e.g. whether or not it can be considered as an example of "vernacular" architecture. It is certainly a singular building, but whether it ever manages to function as a civic space will probably depend more on what happens in adjacent developments than anything else. 3.4 THE FUTURE: THE REICHSTAG, BERLIN Beginning with an international design competition in 1993, the transformation of the Reichstag by Sir Norman Foster and partners has resulted in the unique transformation of an historic structure into a cutting edge symbol of both contemporary architecture and modern democracy. With the return of the reunified German Bundestag (parliament) to the building that it hadn't occupied since the age of the Third Reich, Foster's design heralded a symbolic rebirth characterized by an overt architectural statement about the intended relationship between parliament and citizens. In the words of one writer," The tranparent glass cupola communicates the Bundestag's decision to be an institution open to observation and regulation and one .that in fact calls upon the electorate, which it serves, to exercise these functions." (Schulz, 2000, 43) According to Norman Foster, the four issues that were central to his design for the Reichstag were: 1) the Bundestag's significance as a democratic forum, 2) a commitment to public accessibility, 3) a sensitivity to history, and 4) a vigorous environmental agenda. Of the central design element; the central glass cupola, Foster says that it is meant to "communicate the themes of lightness, transparency and public access that underscore the project." (Foster, quoted in Schulz, 2000, 10) Additionally, Foster's design incorporates a well-used roof terrace complete with a cafe where tourists and politicians alike can enjoy the food and the view of the city. Implications for civic space: Although the importance of this project is national as well as city-wide, as a public building its overt statement about the importance of public access and symbolic power is probably unparalleled. Importantly, this radical strategy re:public space has been accompanied by a strong respect for the history of both the building and the parliamentary body it houses. CHAPTER FOUR: SITE ANALYSIS AND DESIGN FRAMEWORK 4.1 INTRODUCTION AND SITE OVERVIEW 4.1.1 Context City Hall site sits near the conjunction of two major transportation corridors (Cambie St. and Broadway) on the west side of Vancouver. It also acts as the border between two very different city precincts. To the east is the Mount Pleasant area, which is largely single - family homes and some higher density residential developments, and to the west is the Vancouver General Hospital precinct, which is characterized by large hospital buildings and little open space. 4.1.2. Parameters of study area In addition to the property presently occupied by City Hall (453 West 12th) and the east wing (2675 Yukon) the study area also encompasses the 400 block of west 10 t h Ave between Cambie and Yukon and the 400 block of west Broadway (fig 1) These parcels are city owned property and are currently occupied by a city employee parking lot and a row of 1-3 story commercial buildings on Broadway. This block has been (unofficially) earmarked for expansion of City Hall facilities. 4.1.3. Site topography There is a significant grade change across the site.(fig 2) From 12 t h Ave the site slopes down to Broadway at grades between 5-10%. The change in elevation from the south to the north edge of the study site amounts to approximately 20 metres. Additionally there is a grade change of approximately 2 metres from the eastern to the western edge of the site as well. 4.1.5 Architecture The built form on the site presently consists of the City Hall building, (1936) designed by the firm of Townley and Matheson. It is 12 story Art Deco structure in the "moderne" style of the 1930's and was designated a heritage building in 1975. The reinforced concrete structure is faced with stone and sits on a poured concrete balustrade with a circular entry drive. The City Hall Annex, also called the east wing, is a 4 - story modernist slab structure. It was constructed in 1968, also by the firm of Townley and Matheson. 4.2 SJTE HISTORY 4.2.1 Beginnings The present day location of City hall began as Strathcona Park (fig 3) around 1910 -11. It was chosen as the site for Vancouver's new city hall in 1934 largely through the efforts of one individual; Gerald Grattan McGeer. McGeer was elected Mayor of Vancouver in 1934 by a huge majority and he quickly appointed a panel to decide on a site for the construction of a new city hall, (one of his campaign promises) which had by then been a subject of ongoing debate for several years. A number of sites had been under consideration; one on Burrard street, one adjacent to Victory square on Pender street, and McGeer's own favorite, Strathcona park at Cambie and 12 t h 14 avenue, which he favoured in part because the purchase of the land wouldn't cost the city anything and also because he felt it would make the building significant by virtue of being the tallest silhouette on the ridge overlooking the city. He also wanted to situate the new hall where he felt there would be room for both parking and expansion, saying of the site ".. .it will afford ample parking space , ample room for the building, with plenty of ground around it for beautification, making the building conspicuous, as a City Hall should be." (McGeer, personal F i g 3 : P n o t o t a k e n 1 9 3 4 f r o m cambie and West 10 tn Ave. correspondence 1934, City of Courtesy of City of Vancouver Archives Vancouver Archives) The Camb ie street site was duly chosen and McGee r personally selected architect Fred Townley, of the firm Townley and Matheson, to construct the building, which was f inanced by the sale of $1.5 million worth of specially issued 'baby' bonds. The opening of the building in 1936 coincided with Vancouver 's 5 0 t h birthday and the Lord Mayor of London, replete with a great 5 foot silver-and-gold replica of London's civic mace, attended the unveiling of the statue of Captain George Vancouver which sits to the north of the city hall building and looks out over the city. Judging from archive photographs this balustrade and the over-scaled stairs below where the statue sits functioned as the primary "ceremonia l " space at city hall from this point onwards. In addition to the focal point provided by the statue, photographs illustrate that this area of the site was open and commanded an excellent view of the city, allowing it to function as a stage and gathering place for civic functions; a symbolic place to see and be seen , (fig 4) 4.2.2 Middle Years From the construction of city hall in 1936 until the Iate1960's, the site underwent moderate incremental changes. The primary entry onto the site continued to be either the balustrade drive or the vehicle/pedestrian entry at the foot of the stairs leading to the statue of Capta in Vancouver. The articulation of this space gradually became less ornate and more purely functional, moving away from the art deco forms also evident in the circuitous entry drive, (fig 5 ) The most dramatic intervention on the city hall site occurred in the late 1960's. First proposed as early as 1958, the East wing Annex was finally built in 1968-69 to provide much needed additional office space for city hall departments. The design proposals for the addition show several variations in the treatment of the existing park site including one in which a three story parking garage was placed along 10 t h avenue and 15 another indicating a formal built civic plaza opening onto Cambie St. Although the eventual built form of the annex looks substantially as it does in the design proposals, the existing park space remained essentially unchanged except that the mid-block vehicle entrance, which had formerly been on Yukon St. was replaced by an entry drive from Cambie and the parking lot was reconfigured. Fig 5 : Air-photo of site. 1949 Courtesy of UBC Dept of Geography The impact of the annex addition on the spatial organization of the site was obvious. The formerly symmetrical park space was now dramatically truncated on one side by a modernist slab structure that effectively "walled off' the interior of the site from Yukon St. and the Mount P leasant area. The formal symmetry of the landscape had previously responded logically to the axial symmetry and placement of City Hall , but this relationship was now lost. In addition to interventions on the sca le of the annex, photographs illustrate gradual changes in qualitative aspects of the site. With the construction of the annex and the growth of trees on the site, the view, both in and out, became more obscured. Additionally, as the facilities aged and space demands increased, the area at the base of the balustrade stairs, now adjacent to a heavily used entrance to the annex, became something of a service area, replete with bike-racks, dumpsters, functional bollards and reserved parking signs. What was once the primary ceremonial public space on the site was gradually c losed in and diminished, (fig 7) 4.3 S I T E A N A L Y S I S 4.3.1 Present-day character of the site The present day nature of the site, as evident in the site photographs (fig 6) is character ized by a degree of disrepair not uncommon in public facilities of a similar age. The City Hall building itself is aging quite well, its concrete balustrade and retaining walls less so. The east wing Annex is the despair of many of the employees who work there. It was built very cheaply and was all-ready bulging at the seams a good many years ago. Furthermore, quite apart from its spatial inadequacies, its Modernist aesthetic has not aged nearly as well as the Art Deco stylings of the City 16 Hall building, (fig 7) Much of the landscape is somewhat overgrown and has suffered in places from poor management. Given that there has never seemed to be one cohesive vision or plan for the treatment of the public space on the site this is not surprising. There are random and mismatched benches at irregular intervals, low quality hardscape surfaces and several different lighting styles. The general impression is one of genteel neglect and inattention. 4.3.2 Circulation As evident from the diagram there are one.primary and two secondary areas of vehicle circulation on the site, (fig 8) The balustrade directly at the base of City Hall is almost entirely, given over to vehicles. Designed to give people quick and easy access to the building, the one-way travel lane and 15 min parking along the lane becomes a nightmare of congestion at very, busy times. Pedestrians move across the vehicle lane to go between the Annex and City Hall or arrive at City Hall from the north. There are narrow awkward sidewalks at either edge of the balustrade, these do not connect and are neither universally accessible nor particularly functional. The secondary vehicle circulation consists-of an east entrance into the Annex public parking from Yukon St. and another into the west council/reserved'parking lot from Cambie St. In addition to the primary pedestrian circulation between the Annex and City Hall, there is a strong diagonal route across the site from the corner of Cambie and 10 t h Ave and a lesser entry from mid-block on 10 t h Ave. Neither of these pedestrian entries are universally accessible. 4.3.3 Views Mid-and long-range views to and from City Hall are critical. The site and form of the building were obviously shaped very much by its position (both physical and symbolic) on the ridge overlooking the city. Several planning studies have specified height limitations (6 stories along the Broadway corridor) in areas of Fairview Slopes in order to preserve the view of the City Hall building from downtown and False Creek. The views looking north from the City Hall area are also significant, providing dramatic views of The Lions, Grouse Mt., and the downtown skyline. At present the mid and long range views from within the park site are severely limited by the perimeter plantings of tall conifers along 10 t h Ave and Cambie St. and by the bulk of the East Wing Annex along Yukon St. There are areas of the site from which the views are largely un-obscured, however these tend to be poorly accessed, (fig 9) On-site views are less obscured by vegetation, but are limited in scope. From the uppermost level of the site the views north are foreshortened by the concrete wall that runs around the perimeter of the balustrade. From the edge of the balustrade looking north the views of the interior park space are only somewhat obscured, but are primarily views of either parking lot or largely unused green space, (fig 9) The most dramatic views within the site are those looking towards City Hall itself as you approach from the south. Unfortunately at present these views are often cluttered with poorly placed planting and mismatched lighting, severely curtailing the effect of the building's symmetry and dramatic placement at the top of the slope, (fig 7) 17 4.3.4 Site Issues An initial overview of the city hall site brings two broad problematic issues immediately to light. The first of these is related to accessibility. The site orientation (slope, topography, etc.) combined with the placement and articulation of the buildings on the site have created a high number of perceptual barriers to people arriving at city hall, particularly from a pedestrian point of view. Visual and pedestrian access to the city hall building is uncomplicated from 12 t h avenue only. On the other three sides of the site; Cambie, Yukon St., and 10 t h Ave., there are strong physical and perceptual barriers to access. Chief among these.are 1) the retaining walls and stairways that have been used to deal with the grade change 2) the style and age of the park plantings on the site and 3) the footprint and orientation of the east wing annex, (fig 10) The cumulative effect of these barriers in addition to the height and mass of. City hall to the south is that the site feels essentially walled off on all four sides with only narrow and often very private-looking entrances as a means of access. Given the very basic premise that.City Hall ought to be accessible and open as a public space, there is a clear conflict between that goal and the present conditions of the site. The second and related point is the almost complete disjuncture between the programming of the buildings and the landscape. City hall is both a city-wide destination and the workplace for a large number of people. The outdoor space on the site offers very limited choices to anyone from either of these groups however. The public space on the site is almost exclusively of two types; either vehicle circulation/parking or passive recreational green space. Neither category effectively facilitates any of the types of programming possible and appropriate to City Hall. The areas of the site formerly used for ceremony, however well they may or may not have functioned to begin with, have suffered from the effects of being gradually closed off, their former sense of ceremony eroded by increments. Everyday uses are equally limited by the restrictions of the site; areas of seating are limited, poorly placed, and aren't configured to allow flexible use by groups of different sizes, (fig 6) In addition to these basic functional inadequacies, the public space that exists feels very much like generic left-over space. Apart from the iconic significance of the city hall building itself and the statue of George Vancouver there are very few cues to anyone arriving in this public space for the first time that they are anywhere as significant as City Hall. Even an element as basic as the signage is inadequate; one sign is located at the corner of Cambie and 12 t h Ave when a great deal of the foot traffic enters the site from the northernmost point adjacent to the Broadway corridor. 4.4 CONCLUSION & DESIGN FRAMEWORK 4.4.1 Summary of Analysis Out of the Site analysis information and images presented here, the most significant points of analysis are as follows: «> The number and extent of perceptual barriers that essentially ring the site like a series of barricades. • The erosion of areas of ceremony on the site through an incremental process of neglect and lack of forethought. 18 • The lack of connection between the site's major program as the locus of city-making and the programmed public space on the site. • The lack of functional social space on the site • The extent to which these factors inhibit civic space In addition to the areas of weakness explored through the site analysis, there are also tremendous areas of opportunity evident in analysis of the site. These have been identified as: • The dramatic ridge placement of the original City Hall building on the uppermost portion of the site. • The heritage aspects of the site and landscape, including City Hall itself. • The adjacency of the site to two major transportation corridors 4.4.2 Design Framework In order to generate a preliminary framework for design, it seems cogent at this point to reiterate some of the concerns raised by the literature review and precedent studies. It seems fairly evident that in its present condition the public space at City Hall probably wouldn't stand up very well to Peter Rowe's five criteria or tests for civic space. It may in fact seem unfair to even apply these criteria to the site, given how far it falls short of the measure. The public space at City Hall doesn't feel either inclusive or pluralist. It lacks programming that reaches out to people across the city and gives them a reason to feel that this place includes them. Far from presenting a challenge to established orders, much of the way the site presently functions is extremely conservative and reflects a style of local government that is equally cautious. And finally, the site clearly fails to provide "places for collective practices and rituals, while still allowing for individual experience." (Rowe 218) If, as argued in the literature review, civic space both reflects and constitutes civic life, then the present-day nature of civic life in Vancouver, which as I've all-ready argued demonstrates some profound weaknesses, can certainly.be improved by the addition of strong civic space. Therefore, given the set of pragmatic and experiential issues brought out by the site analysis, what needs to be done at city hall in order to allow the site to function (at least potentially) as civic space? • The space needs to be made more inclusive. It also needs to be "perceived" very strongly as being more inclusive and easily accessible; it needs to reach out to the city and its people. • A strong civic place is memorable by virtue of being distinct from anywhere else; the inherent strengths of the city hall site need to be elaborated and strengthened in order to make the place truly singular rather than generic. • The site needs to be given an overtly "resistant" and fundamentally democratic aspect, which at present is completely lacking. This should be evident in both the programming and design language. • The "transcendent" quality of something permanent and/ or symbolic of the community it represents needs to be more clearly evident. • The public space on the site needs to be flexible and rich enough to allow for both collective and highly personal rituals and everyday uses. With these principles in mind, the next chapter will examine the preliminary design explorations for the site, focusing on the issues related to the future expansion of the city hall precinct to the Broadway corridor. I9 city hall van-city building east wing annex city owned property Figure 1 : study parameters- City Hall Site m Figure 2: Contour lines across site - 2 m interval Figure 4: A Gathering Place for Civic Functions No space f o r ceremony A threadbare and neglected p u b l i c realm The l o s t axis Figure 6: Problematic Site Elements 22 Figure 7 - City Hall Site Images & Materials LEGEND: SITE CIRCULATION PRIMARY VEHICLE CIRCULATION PRIMARY PEDESTRIAN CIRCULATION SECONDARY VEHICLE CIRCULATION SECONDARY PEDESTRIAN CIRCULATION Figure 8: Site Circulation 24 Figure 9 : Views Looking North on Site From West 10th Ave. From Cambie St. From Yukon St. Figure 10: Views From Perimeter of Site - Physical & Perceptual Barriers 26 CHAPTER FIVE: INITIAL DESIGN EXPLORATIONS 5.1 INTRODUCTION: The Initial design explorations consisted primarily of further information gathering beyond the arena of site analysis. Interviews with staff members at city hall were conducted and the parameters of the expansion issue were establ ished. Expansion of the 1936 facilities has been d iscussed sporadically for nearly as long as the building has been around, (e.g. see Vancouver Sun Aug 16, 1966, Vancouver Province July 23, 1965) Additionally there have been a number of studies commiss ioned by the planning dept. at city hall that have either touched on the subject of expans ion indirectly (transit study, view corridor study) or addressed it explicitly. (City Hall Precinct Pr imer: Rhone & Iredale Architects 1978, Precinct P lan , Norman/Hotson Architects 1981, City Hall Expansion Study, Hancock, N ico lson Tamaki Architects, 1990) The last study, a comprehensive report on the expans ion of City Hall commiss ioned in 1989 and completed in 1990, proved most useful for this thesis. The study explored the parameters for expansion and presented 5 options for site organization as well as square footage numbers for the potential expans ion. A new building /buildings totaling 235,000 ft of additional space was determined to be necessary in order to meet the projected space requirements to 2005 and beyond. This general figure was used to set the parameters for the built form proposed for the Broadway edge in this thesis exploration. 5.2 EXPANSION STUDY: ISSUES A s mentioned earlier in the chapter, the 400 blocks of west 9 t h (Broadway) and 10 t h (which are city owned property), have been earmarked for the future expansion of the city hall site. The potential extension of the city hall facilities down the hill to the Broadway corridor will have several ramifications for creating/strengthening a sense of civic space at city hall. Among the most significant of these are: 1) The opening of a new civic "face" directly on Broadway: 2) The configuration of transit/pedestrian connections from the Broadway corridor to the existing City Hall at 1 2 t h Ave and beyond 3) The placement of the built form on Broadway and the treatment of the view of the existing city hall from Broadway. Additionally, it's important to mention that there are several other sets of related issues pertinent to the development of the Broadway edge of the site that are beyond the scope of this thesis to address. Foremost among these is the fact that the expansion has been d iscussed as some form of public/private joint venture. The nature of this type of development will obviously have very important consequences for the character and quality of the new public space that is generated by the expansion, however, the number and scope of permutations possible is too complex to explore here. 5.3 TWO STUDY OPTIONS: GETTING FORM A number of exploratory sketches, figure ground studies, and site sections (fig 11) were generated as a means of exploring site organization. These lead to two studies that explored options for site and building organization, (fig 12) The first was roughly conceptual ized as a complex model of organizing the site. Thus it consisted of new built form massed around a central complex and built public space at the North end of the site. The second concept was a campus style of site organizat ion. This entailed a 31 much more symmetrical form of site organization that used the placement of separate new and existing buildings to order the open space and circulation on the site. These options were conceived of as a way of exploring the development pragmatically in terms of local forms of city structure, i.e. how a development incorporating several city blocks commonly gets expressed and articulated. 5.3.1 Implications of study models: The study models and exploratory sections clarified some of the most pivotal issues for site organization. These were: 1.) Whether the east wing annex should be retained or demolished 2) Whether west 10 t h Ave should be allowed to continue as vehicle access through the site or be closed off, thereby amalgamating the area from 12 t h to Broadway , into one parcel. 3) The recognition of a strong diagonal pedestrian path from the intersection of Cambie and Broadway to the existing city hall 4) The importance of creating access to and from Mount Pleasant and the recognition of both 10 t h and 11 t h Ave as potential "gateways." 5) , The importance of the formal symmetry of the existing City Hall building as a very strong visual and experiential backdrop to any new built form/ land - forms on the northern portion of the site. 6) The grade change on the site and how it affects both access and views. 5.4 D E M O C R A C Y IN V IEW: P R E C E D E N T F O R M S Concurrent with the two study options, another aspect of the design exploration hinged on the idea of the council chamber itself; its placement, configuration, and symbolism. In his text The Social Meaning of Civic Space, Charles T. Goodsell examines the evolution that civic council chambers and meeting rooms have undergone in 20 t h century North America. He uses photos and plans to trace the change from an authoritarian model of civic space, where the public was physically separated from the decision-makers, to the more inclusive model commonly found today where the "theatre in the round" style of chamber now situates the public as equal members of the discussion and decision making process. Goodsell also discusses how the council chamber gradually moved from being a small private chamber in the interior of the building, in the early part of the century, to the contemporary model (see design precedents chapter 3) in which the chamber now commonly presents a very public face, usually either partially or entirely separate from the administrative component of the building. The re-design of the Reichstag in Berlin probably symbolizes one of the most overtly democratic versions of the spatial evolution that Goodsell discusses. Leaving aside for the moment whether this spatial evolution has always resulted in a more inclusive model of local government, it's clear that, like other aspects of the civic, the physical change in the council chamber probably both reflects and constitutes some greater degree of openness. The council chamber on the third floor of Vancouver's existing City Hall is clearly representative of an earlier model of civic government. The audience is physically separated from the politicians, not only by the seating arrangement but also by the small size of the chamber and by the effort it takes to penetrate what seems like the last ring of defenses around this metaphorical fortress. Having made the decision to propose a new council chamber that would reflect a more open and inclusive model of local democracy, the next component of the design exploration looked at the a number of precedent forms for glass chambers and public buildings (fig 13 and 14) and experimented with the configuration of seating arrangements and placement of the building in relation to other site elements. This .. element of the design exploration became a way of understanding the focus of the design exploration: the transition from closed-off and inaccessible to open and transparent became a metaphor for the overall design project. 33 CHAPTER SIX: SITE DESIGN 6.1 PROGRAMMATIC VISION: The primary programmatic intention of the design is very simply to bring more people to the site and to provide for exper iences on the site that strengthen both an individual and collective sense of the civic. A s d iscussed in the site analys is , the range of programmatic possibil it ies avai lable on the site currently is very limited. Al though the site has some degree of use as a place for protests and public statements, (such as during Vancouver 's 4- month transit strike of 2001, when protesters camped at the 12th Avenue entrance to the building) people come here primarily because they are either a city employee or someone who has some form of business to do at City Hall . A s a proposal, I would suggest that the range of possible programs and events appropriate to the City Hall site should include: • Collective Ceremon ies : both formal and informal e.g. commemorat ion of significant city dates and events, city picnics, political events such as speeches and campaign events, protests, demonstrations, rallies and fund-raising events • Centennials/ anniversaries/ holidays, such as new year 's eve, and seasona l celebrations related to different cultural and ethnic groups within the city • City awards and nominations such as awarding someone the keys to the city, mayoral and counci l investitures, memorials, funerals, staff-related festivities and celebrations • Personal Ceremonies : weddings, retirement celebrat ions, birthdays, • Children's events: educational and mentoring events, research into city history student art shows , youth orchestras, children's festivals • Arts events: concerts, displays, lectures, c lasses , night-time events like f i lms, light displays and installations 6.2 MASTER PLAN: (fig 15) 6.2.1 Master Plan - Fundamentals of Site Organization: These basic decis ions were made regarding the large- sca le organization of the site: 1) To demolish the east wing annex and mass new built form on expansion block 2) To configure new built form so that there is a strong pedestr ian route from Broadway directly to City Hall 3) To re-establish park space between City Hall building and expansion block 4) To create an open formal axis between expans ion block and City Hall building, defined by the width of the City Hall building itself. 5) To define this axis by removing and/or relocating existing vegetation along 1 0 t h avenue edge of site 6) To establish a tripartite division of space across the park space and situate all new planting and park structures in the perimeter 2/3 r d s o f the site. 7) To allow 10 avenue to remain open to vehicle traffic except on special occasions 8) To re-establish an 11th avenue link across the site from east to west. Additionally, above all of these strategic site-planning decisions, the first priority of the site design was to strengthen both access and ceremony. 6.2.2 Elements of the Master Plan: A. New Community Hal l ; A Symbol of Clarity and Openness The central placement of a new council hall in the. built expansion at the north end of the site (fig 17) is intended to act as an overt statement about the importance of transparency and inclusiveness in city politics. Decisions that affect the city as a whole shouldn't be made behind closed doors and citizens should be encouraged to participate and welcomed into the decision-making process. The physical form of the chamber building, which is a free-standing glass structure at the level of the 10th Avenue plaza reflects these principles; it is visually and symbolically open to the view of the wider city audience. It is also intended to accommodate a much larger number (300) of people within the hall and to serve a wider purpose than, simply acting as the exclusive domain of the mayor and council members. The chamber should serve as a community focal point. Thus as well as council meetings it should also be large enough to be used for community and committee meetings, lectures and other public events. B. 10th Avenue Plaza: Street of Civic Dreams In addition to the physical seating capacity of the community hall, the public space directly adjacent to the chamber itself is intended to function as additional and flexible overflow space to accommodate audiences larger than 300. (fig 18)The chamber is designed to accommodate these occasions with retractable portions of glass walls that can physically open the room up to encompass the plaza space and participants as well as a vaulted glass overhead that covers the pedestrian space directly outside the chamber. The plaza space extends across the width of 10th avenue, which is treated to emphasize the fact that although it remains open to traffic it is predominantly a pedestrian realm and a connective and symbolic link between the old and new portions of the site. In order to accommodate either very large audiences at a community hall event or a special event or ceremony that happens on the plaza itself, the street design incorporates ceremonial gates at the entrance to the street tree bosque at either end of the 400 block. These gates define the ceremonial entry point to the City Hall site along 10th avenue and can also function to close that portion of the street off to vehicle traffic entirely if necessary. C. City Amphitheatre: All the World's a Stage Directly south of the 10th avenue plaza is the city amphitheatre, (fig 19 )This edge of the site, which was previously the most impenetrable, has been reconfigured to be the most open point of the site, (fig 16) From this stepped seating area people command clear views of both the old City Hall building and the new. Much of the ceremonial programming envisioned for the site takes place in this public space, which also serves as the primary entrance to the park space, great lawn, and city buildings incorporated in the re-design of the park. D. The Great Lawn: The City at Play At the heart of the park space is an open lawn space intended to function as the most flexible space on the site; it is flat enough to accommodate city picnics and informal sporting events but elevated enough that it provides an expansive view out over the city. The great lawn can be accessed directly from the Amphitheatre area. It can also be approached more gently via the 2 new ramp-ways from the corner of Cambie & 10th Ave and Yukon and 10th Ave. (see fig 23) These ramp-ways continue along either side of the great lawn until they reach the,11 t h Avenue Plaza and the old City Hall Building. E. Library of City History and Strathcona Park House: Civic but not Square There are two new structures in the park space, designed to be cut into the slope of the site and provide two levels of use and access. Physically these structures are very similar. Both present a simple glass front to the north and an accessible green roof to the south, (fig 16) The building on the Cambie edge of the site, adjacent to the heaviest pedestrian flow from Cambie and Broadway, (fig 20 & 21) is the Strathcona Park House. It is intended to evoke the history of the site as a city park, an identity which has become clouded overtime, and to function as washroom, concession, security and information facility for the programmed activities in the amphitheatre and other park spaces. The building on the Yukon street edge of the site (fig 20) contains the library of city history, a collection of text, archival, and visual records that consists of material compiled from other city sources, among them the heritage department, the city archives, and the Vancouver public library collections. The library is intended to serve as a city- wide focal point for students, professionals, and hobbyists and regular citizens interested in city history. F. Chapel Garden: The Sacred in the City A multi-faith chapel garden occupies the top of the park site along the Yukon street edge, (fig 20) The programming for this space encourages citizens to adopt the garden space for use in their own personal ceremonies, such as weddings and other social and spiritual rituals. Because of the treatment of the grade and the residential context of the Yukon street edge of the site, this garden space will also serve as the quiet less public edge of the site, allowing opportunities for private space for visitors. G. Memorial Garden: Sons and Daughters of the City The Cambie street edge of the site, as the busier more public edge, is occupied by a formal memorial garden that commemorates citizen's past and present, (fig 20 & 21) The garden pays tribute to the memory of Vancouver sons and daughters that have made a difference to their city and contains tributes to their accomplishments in the form of artworks and installations both permanent and temporary. This garden also serves as a physical announcement of the significance of the city hall site to passersby on Cambie street and works to draw people onto the site through the 2 new pedestrian entrances along the Cambie street edge. H. 11th Avenue Plaza: Sitting at Captain Vancouver's Feet In addition to providing a connection across the site along the axis of 11th avenue, the plaza space at the base of the north stairs replaces the parking lot that currently exists there and re-dedicates the historic ceremonial space on the site by formalizing the treatment of the area as a reclaimed public space adjacent to the sub-basement level of the existing City Hall building. While this,floor of the building is currently occupied by work areas and office space, with the freeing up of space offered by the expansion, and with a new treatment of the windows along the face of the building it could well serve as a restaurant or gallery space, (fig 22) allowing pedestrian access into the building at this level, thereby bypassing the last physical barrier of the concrete 36 balustrade and north stairs which necessitate entrance from the 12 ave face of the building by anyone in a wheelchair or pushing a baby stroller, (fig 21) I. The Balustrade Area: As the culmination of the journey from Broadway, the balustrade area where the statue bf Captain Vancouver has long been treated as the symbolic "front door" to the City Hall building. This site is and should continue to be a significant focal point of the site. The balustrade area requires an upgrading and formalized treatment of the ground plane through the use of over-size pavers that reference the building block fagade of the building itself, (fig 22) Although the area can remain open to vehicle circulation, the parking stalls presently along the north face of the building will be removed. 37 section c - c i 10th ave Figure 16: Site Sections 39 ELEVATION VIEW OF NEW COUNCIL HALL AND GLASS CANOPY FROM 10TH AVE 10th avenue plaza I new civic buildings frame council hall m F front face of chamber opens to allow wider* I audiences to accessJ J S E C T I O N T H R O U G H C O U N C I L C H A M B E R pedestrian access • ^ ' i v ' from broadway r ' • i i i i - YXIMS Figure 18: Section/ Elevation Views of New Counci l Hall 41 SECTION T H R O U G H SEATING/STAIRS Figure 19: City Amphitheatre 42 Library of City History CAMBIE STREET ELEVATION Figure 20: Street Elevations 43 PARTIAL S ITE SECT ION- 11TH A V E P L A Z A T O 10TH A V E P L A Z A Figure 21: Sections through site 44 Figure 22: Site perspectives 45 section through rampway showing light and seat-wall New Precinct Light Figure 25: Precinct Lights and New Balustrade Details 6.3 DESIGN EXPRESSION & DETAILS: The elements of the Master Plan described above were explored at a range of scales and at varying levels of detail. The 'opening up' of the site also found expression through design details that emphasize a) joining new and old forms, b) celebrating the drama of topography, and c) exploring the concept of transparency as a guiding metaphor for the site design. The impetus for the design details grew from an exploration of the lovely art deco aesthetic of the existing city hall building, (fig 7) Some of the forms and lines of these structures were reinterpreted and expanded upon in the new site details. The masonry forms of the old city hall itself (as well as the light structures and balustrade walls) were used to signify the heritage aspects of the site. These were literally and figuratively joined to the image of transparency in the form of inset glass lights and tinted glass wave walls in the amphitheatre details, (see fig 24& 25) The wide use of glass in the detail elements also reinforces the importance of the transparency of the new council hall as the central metaphor for the design project as a whole. 6.4 CONCLUSION: To conclude, this thesis began with a curiosity about the idea of 'the civic' and what that might mean in the context of Vancouver as a city. The literature review and precedent studies that followed the initial inquiry explored ideas relevant to the making of civic space and generated some principles about the. relationship between 'civic' and 'space.' The primary concept that emerged was the idea that there is a strong correlation between the quality of civic space and the quality of the local/civic democracy that both produces it, and is in turn produced by it. In other words, civic space both reflects and constitutes civic life. Using this principle, the design exploration looked closely at the existing City Hall site in Vancouver and framed a number of specific goals for the site. These hinged on 1) increasing both physical and perceptual access to the site and 2) strengthening the sense of ceremony and symbolism inherent in both the site and its function as the locus of civic government. The transition from closed-off and inaccessible to open and transparent became a metaphor for both the overall design project and the changes that such a redesign might well encourage in our current model of civic government. The goal was the creation of a place that might strengthen both the individual and collective sense of the civic in this city. In the final analysis, a design project such as this one is purely speculative. While' it's true that certain qualities and attributes of a built space may encourage its use as civic space, it is by no means certain that the civic can be 'designed' into being at all. As some of the most successful examples attest to, civic meaning accrues through time and use and is fundamentally defined by people's emotional investment in a place. As a designer, one can only seek to uncover and strengthen the meaning that all-ready exists in a place such as Vancouver's City Hall. 49 Works Cited: Berelowitz, Lance. "Places at the Edge: Public Space as Platform for the Contemplation of the Natural Tableau," in Metropolitan Mutations: The Architecture of Emerging Public Spaces. RAIC Annual, Little, Brown and Company. Toronto. 1989 Bookchin, Murray. From Urbanization to Cities: Toward a New Politics of Citizenship. Cassell . New York: 1995 Boyer, M. Christine. The City of Collective Memory: its Historical Imagery and Architectural Entertainments . MIT Press. Cambridge. 1994 Carr, S., Francis, M., Rivlin, L. G., & Stone, A. M. Public space. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge 1992 Corner, James. "A Discourse on Three Tyrannies of Contemporary Theory and the Alternative of Hermeneutics" in Landscape Journal (Fall) 10 (2): 115-133 Fulford, Robert. The Accidental City: The transformation of Toronto. Houghton Mifflin Toronto. 1996 Gehl, Jan Life Between Buildings:Using Public Space. Danish Architectural Press. 4 t h ed. 2001 Goodsell, Charles, T. The social meaning of civic space: Studying political authority through architecture. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. 1988 Hook, Judith. Siena: A City and its History. Hamish Hamilton. London. 1979 Jackson, J.B. Landscapes .University of Massachusetts Press. Amherst. 1970 Kingwell, Mark. The World We Want. Viking. Toronto. 2000 Lees, Lynn Hollen. "Urban Public Space and Imagined Communities in the 1980s and 1990s" in Journal of Urban History, August 1994 Lofland, Lyn H. The Public Realm: Exploring the city's Quintessential Social Territory. Aldine De Gruyter. New York. 1998 Maitland, L, Hucker, J . , Ricketts.S. A Guide to Canadian Architectural Styles. Broadview Press. Toronto. 1992 Rowe, Peter. Civic Realism. MIT Press. Cambridge. 1997 50 Ryan, Mary P. "A Laudable Pride in the Whole of Us': City Halls and Civic Materialism" in American Historical Review. October 2000 Schulz, Bernard. The Reichstag: The Parliament Building By Norman Foster. Prestel. London. 2000 Sorkin, Michael ed. Variations on a Theme Park: The American City abd the End of Public Space Hill and Wang. New York.1992 Stewart, Kennedy. "Measuring Local Democracy: The Case of Vancouver" in The Canadian Journal of Urban Research. 6: (2) (December 1997) 160-181 Williams, David Ricardo. Mayor Gerry: The Remarkable Gerald Grattan McGeer, Douglas & Mclntyre, Vancouver, 1986 51 


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