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Life on the edge : a public space vision for False Creek Flats Enns, Michael

Abstract

This project will explore public space design possibilities for one of Vancouver's major geomorphologic landscape edges: the Clark Drive escarpment and the East False Creek Flats. Once a tidal wetland that formed the eastern margins of False Creek, the area has been home to industrial and rail operations for the last century. In recent years, widespread interest for these lands has emerged in the face of changing land-use zoning and development opportunities. Increasingly, these interests are being translated into large-scale 'big box' business and commercial developments. It is argued, however, that an area such as this, one of great physical prominence in the heart of the urban social fabric with a unique blend of aesthetic and experiential potentials, must be planned and prioritized through a scope of social interaction and public spaces. A literature review on theories of urban landscape edges provides the initial ideological thrust of the project. Second, an examination of the City's public open space planning policies is compared with an overview of existing uses of Vancouver's major geomorphologic edges to discern possible connections between how we perceive our city and how we plan for it. In response, the role of these edges in a diversified public open space system is expanded upon using one of these geomorphologic edges, specifically the Clark Drive escarpment and East False Creek Flats, as a vision for social interaction. A detailed portion of this larger site is then the focus of a more intimate series of design interventions. The conclusions drawn herein offer insight into the nature of successful public places, ones that are strategically located, contextually responsive, highly used, and multifunctional. It is also recognized that great public places must function at a multitude of scales, as both centres for local activities and as components of larger wholes. Moreover, how we plan and prioritize for public open space is crucial not only to the success of the many individual places in and of themselves, but also to the success of the larger region in its ability to install in its users a strong sense of place and identity.

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