York Urbanist

Archive for November, 2011

Curling Clubs

November 20th, 2011

Visited East York Curling Club for a bonspiel yesterday. During the event the Compressor stopped and was out for three hours making play unpleasant.

This is a harbinger for most of the curling facilities built in their heydays of 1960′s. Not only are the plants needing replacement, but the functionality of the spaces ‘behind the glass’ have not kept current.

Issues: City owned properties follow standard protocols that do not keep up with sport improvements. The club is encumbered by the bureaucracy and unable to engage the members. Other clubs suffer from lack of planning for capital costs in the future.

Remedy: Lease buildings from municipalities and operate independently, including building improvements. Administer a capital fund of about $10 per month on each member.

Students UofG

November 18th, 2011

The forewarning was given. Students as they near the end of their semester are showing fatigue. Fewer questions are emerging from individuals, who seem to be relieved when they find that the lectures no longer take the full 3 hours. As simple a request as bring a plan from google has met with resistance.

This semester, Wednesdays have often been outdoors studios…. Do you know that it has rained every Wednesday since mid September. The learning has not only been academic, but also about how to guard against the elements. Soon enough, students will be landscape architects and the only difference will be that they will be paid for enduring the elements.

400 series Highway pet peeves

November 17th, 2011
Transportation issues

Can you relate? I tend to drive, um, slightly above the marked speed limit, but I always keep to the right lane if not passing.

Pet peeve: drivers who obey the speed limit and determine that since they are at the limit, they are allowed to travel in the passing lane (ostensibly to control speeders, I suppose). Due to my slightly over the limit in the right lane, I find myself passing sometimes on the right (not a good move, but I am trying to unplug traffic). And I am not the only like driver.

Consequences: Mine is not road rage, but quiet perseverence. However, there are others – unfeathered birds are flying. Last week I was given not only the bird but that LOOK, for passing a 95kpm’er on the right. But this week, it was a Lexus driver that flipped the bird to a 100kpm’er in the left lane…. right after he took the lead and applied the brakes to make sure the driver knew that he was enraged with the intolerable activity of travelling the speed limit in the ‘passing lane’.
Have you any like highway stories?

University of Guelph

November 14th, 2011

Topic of discussion today is Sustainable Development with an emphasis on Green Roofs.


November 14th, 2011

Sustainable Development is….

November 14th, 2011

improving standard of living by:
-protecting human health,
-conserving the environment,
-using resources efficiently, and
-advancing long-term economic competitiveness.


November 10th, 2011

if you are already convinced that you cannot think more creatively, you won’t


November 7th, 2011
Uncategorized, Urban Design

Tuesday November 8, I discuss Vaughan’s Urban Commercial Centres with host Gila Martow and Diana Birchall, City of Vaughan Planning. Gila regularly hosts talks about urban issues on AllTalkTV.com

Urban Places

November 2nd, 2011
Urban Design

What makes an urban place special?

The lists that have appeared on this website and in the media have an evaluative basis.  It is the impact on the human emotions that make an urban place just acceptable or enjoyable to engage.

Here are the criteria for determining “Places”:

1.            Accessibility: for public to these spaces by any mode; for non-motorized vehicles; for pedestrians

2.            Engagement: Can the space be absorbed by the user – at a distance; close-up?; does it engage across demographic boundaries?

3.            Beauty: Has there been design influence beyond a standard?

4.            Evolutionary: Did the planners have a long-term vision?; has the space stood the test of time? Could it change with changing demographics or pressures of urbanization?

5.            Barriers: Does the place pose a barrier to the public?

6.            Environmental: Is this a nature infused design?

7.            Design for Human Behaviour: with intensification, a greater and educated population will be users; people react differently in an urban environment than in a suburban situation.

William H. Whyte (sociologist 1917-1999) suggested that we have a moral responsibility to create physical places that facilitate civic engagement and community interaction.  The spaces that were most delightful in York Region are those that have people who attract people most. An urban place is successful based on the volume of physical users.  Whyte quantifies: “Up to seven people per foot of walkway a minute is a nice bustle”. This number can be applied to urban places, but is not tolerated in suburbia.

Surprisingly, urban places that are bustling feel safer. Imagine yourself on a Saturday late fall evening, compare Unionville street with, say Canada’s Wonderland parking lot.  Both are tourist attractions and have pavement.  In which place would you rather be?