RelativeCity: Vivian Manasc

ED |

Vivian 2 CC

mC:t    2015.06.15    #relativecity

Being an Edmontonian who is often interacting with Calgary on a social and professional level, what are characteristics of the city that often stand out to you?

 

You know, what I really like about Calgary is that it’s really quite lively and walkable downtown and I really appreciate the walkability of the public realm, and it’s getting better and better. Here in East Village, it’s really amazing to see how the public realm has been developed, downtown Stephen Avenue of course, and just walking back and fourth across the bridge and the river, Princess Island, the way that whole river front has been developed so that it is so very walkable. That’s the part I really love and look forward to and being in Calgary.

 

How would you characterize the connectivity within Calgary?

 

I do find that people are always available, accessible, and willing to get together as long as it is before six o’clock; they kind of all go out to the nether reaches. I find that it’s great to be here socially, physically, connectivity wise, walking around the city, catching up with people, going for coffee, going for drinks, but only until six o’clock. Then everyone is done.

 

Does this characterization support sustainable and healthy living?

 

This does depend on what is meant by sustainable and healthy living. Some people may argue that once you get out to your suburban home or you get out to your horse ranch, then that would be a sustainable and healthy lifestyle to them. To me I think a sustainable and healthy lifestyle work differently for different people. Some of us really like to be outdoors, some like to be out in the countryside, out in the mountains, out hiking and biking and horse back riding. Others are just more urban and prefer to be in the city. I find that that’s what’s missing in Calgary, that after hours, urban life is limited. That does not mean its not sustainable and healthy for people who prefer the suburban and the rural version of it.

 

What connections within the urban realm bring about the creation of public health and sustainable communities? Is this a design question or a political question?

 

Very definitely the active living aspect, the bike routes, the walking paths. I loved, just watching the last few days, the like routes being painted on Stephan avenue. That really is fantastic. I would love to see Calgary have a bike share program, I have not seen it yet. The hotels will rent you a bike; obviously if you are staying at a hotel it’s all well and good, but if you’re not there is no bike share program that I am aware of. That would be brilliant if there was one.

Active and healthy living in my mind is really about minimizing how reliant you are on your cars. I like the car2go, and that makes it possible for a lot of people to leave their cars behind. Using transit is terrific. Although, it’s funny because this afternoon we went to the University to go see the Ron Thom show, but we got on the wrong train. We ended up all the way in the West end of the city, then we had to come all the way back. So that part was like, okay if you are from out of town it’s not exactly clear.

 

In being an architect who knows the importance of connectivity and sustainable communities, what will be the role of designers in creating or encouraging connectivity in the coming years?

 

I think politically we can be lobbying and actively speaking of behalf of active living. From a design perspective there are many simple things; designing bike routes, designing the public realm so that there are safe bike routes, designing our buildings so that there are bike lock-ups and showers. Good connectivity of transit is super important. I think we can do a whole lot better job in mapping and sharing information. We all tend to rely on Google Maps a lot, but it’s not always the easiest way to find everything.

As designers, architects, urbanists, planners we can be advocating for more mixed use development. Live-work-play is critical to having more people live downtown. It is coming in Calgary. Right here in East Village where we are sitting it’s pretty clear that it’s coming. It’s really nice to see all this residential development starting to happen and I think in ten years from now it is going to be a completely different city because of that. All these people will be living downtown, then that will revitalize Stephan Avenue after eight o’clock at night.

Now, I walk up and down Stephan Avenue, I’m the only person out there for a walk at seven o’clock at night. This is not a sustainable city. We need a lot more people living downtown and having better emanates for families. For example, a number of years ago, the City of Vancouver did some research on figuring out what it would take to get more families living downtown. They started asking families why they decided to move out into the suburbs. So often the answer is there is no place to store stuff, there is no garage. It was really interesting because what they did in Vancouver is in the parkade they put partitions between the parking stalls and put an overhead door so that everybody actually had a garage in the parkade. That alone shifted peoples’ minds, adding two walls and a garage door, which is $5000, changed peoples minds. Not everybody’s, but enough peoples’ minds.

It’s those little, incremental things that make the difference to enabling people to continue to live downtown, not just when they are young and single, but when they are having families. Than, once you have families downtown, then you have playgrounds, then you have activities for children, then you have schools, then you have daycares, then you complete the virtuous cycle and have a complete life for people. Then the option of living downtown is more attractive

 

ED

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