Friday, October 19, 2012

Block 51: Chairs for Lovers Screen Day:a look at the past

still shot from Chairs For Lovers, NFB, directed by Barrie Howells
Stanley King,  Bing ThomAlan BellNick Milkovich 
Monday, October 15, Stanley stepped back into his role as community facilitator for Robson Square after forty years!  The City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Public Space Network hosted a screen day to look at the history of Robson Square.  After this, there was a panel which included architects who were part of the original design team:  Luminaries such as Bing ThomAlan BellNick Milkovich answered questions.  These were three members of Arthur Erickson’s original Robson Square design team. 

"The trio took turns reminiscing about some of the planning and design ideas that went into the original concept. Ideas that included:
  • Closing the 800-block off to vehicle traffic
  • A lively sub-grade area (where today’s ice rink and UBC are) that would feature retail and transit services along side government services
  • A large reflective pool on the north end instead of fountain" 
The film was a fascinating look at the past and the present.   I mean, forty years have gone by and change happened to Robson street, to Vancouver, and to Stanley.  Here we were viewing a film about the expression of desired uses from the young people of the past.  We were seeing their dreams and aspirations from the perspective of hindsight: sitting right there in the space eventually designed by Erickson's design team.  And the space follows their desires pretty closely:  A dome over a skate rink, the water features, trees, water, the chairs for lovers.  Bing Thom reflected on how unprecedented it was for a young person like himself, in the 1970s to be given the creative freedom to design a truly great urban space. He called on the youth present that night to seize the opportunity to participate in creating the places they inhabit. 

After the panel, the Co-Design Group got busy and clusters of citizens codesigned Robson Street and the North Plaza.  For a codesign artist, like myself, it was amazing to take a felt pen and draw thoughts on this site again, understanding that it was codesigned forty years ago by young people when it was only a parking lot:

These young people are now in their fifties. But, that night,  a new generation of young people animated the space they dreamed of forty years ago.  We are recording their thoughts through feltpen and vellum.   I will wait and see how the planners and architects and landscape architects will translate these thoughts into landscape, stone, concrete, glass.  

Vancouver Public Space Network blogged about it here where you'll find a gallery of the codesign drawings.
photo: Vancouver Public Space Network