Small Spaces

November 28, 2014

For more than a decade, I have written short  fictions about people living in small spaces:  a couple who live on their balcony; a street person who makes a home in a doorway, for example.  My stories, and plans for more, are filled with the ingenuity required to live in such tight spots.  But nothing I had fantasized about prepared me for the real-life inventiveness of Gary Chang in Hong Kong as told in this fascinating piece from the New York Times.

Chang has managed to cram 24 different floor plans into his tiny 344 square foot apartment.


Using shifting wall units suspended from steel tracks bolted into the ceiling, the apartment becomes all manner of spaces — kitchen, library, laundry room, dressing room, a lounge with a hammock, an enclosed dining area and a wet bar.


In the last two decades, he has renovated four times, on progressively bigger budgets as his company, Edge Design Institute, has grown. His latest effort, which took a year and cost just over $218,000, he calls the “Domestic Transformer.”

Incredible ingenuity.  I couldn’t possibly live in it, but I appreciate the design skills that have brought it about.


First published:  January 2009


Urban Age Futures Conference

November 13, 2014

For those with an interest in such matters, the Urban Age Futures conference starts on the 14th.

The programme is full of cutting-edge discussions on governance and urbanism in wide-ranging settings.  And the list of speakers is equally diverse.  Good for the big thinkers who can focus.

It might help to shake ourselves free for a moment or two from the minutia of our parochial election-time concerns.

You should be able to watch live here at the appropriate times.

Bold Geometric Skylines

April 21, 2014

I adore these designs:

bold colour



bold colour 2

And the rest which you can find here at Taxi.

The World’s Worst Architect!

February 15, 2014


Thank goodness: I am not alone in thinking that Frank Gehry is the world’s worst starchitect.  Geoff Manaugh in Gizmodo just shreds the guy, and quite deservedly.

“Gehry long ago stopped pursuing any interesting material or tectonic experimentation—and he used to be an interesting architect!—to become the multi-billion dollar equivalent of a Salvador Dalì poster tacked to the wall in a stoned lacrosse player’s dorm room, an isn’t-it-trippy pile of pseudo-psychedelic bullshit that everyone but billionaire urban developers can see through right away. What’s particularly frustrating about Gehry’s career is that he’s somehow meant to be cool, a kind of sci-fi architect for the Millennial generation, a Timothy Leary of CAD; but he’s Guy Fieri, his buildings hair-gelled monsters of advanced spatial douchebaggery …

[Gehry’s buildings] are just crumpled Reynold’s Wrap on an otherwise white-bread interior, a boring, room-by-room grid surrounded by hair spray, like some lunatic version of Phyllis Diller blown up to the size of a city block and frozen mid-stroke.”

Wow!  That’s telling it like it is.

Planning For People

February 15, 2014

On my other blog, I have written about, and displayed the video for, a short speech given by urbanist Jan Gehl that is well worth the 18 minutes it takes to watch.  He uses Copenhagen as his example of a city that plans for people.

In fact, Copenhagen’s policy is to become The Best City In The World For People. We can compare that with Vision’s mantra of making Vancouver the most expensive (oops, I meant “Greenest”) city in the world.

Gentrification Doesn’t Help

January 13, 2014

Back in October last year, David Madden wrote an important column in the Guardian entitled “Gentrification doesn’t trickle down to help everyone“.   I missed it when it first appeared, and I thank Judy McGuire of Vancouver’s Inner City Coalition for bringing it back to my attention.

The column begins by stating the problem clearly:

“It’s no secret that today’s big cities are massively unequal, and gentrification is now the predominant form of neighborhood development. In countless urban districts across the world, affordable housing is on the decline and displacement is on the rise.”

He goes on to note:

“Exclusion is rebranded as creative “renewal”. The liberal mission to “increase diversity” is perversely used as an excuse to turn residents out of their homes in …. areas famous for their long histories of independent political and cultural scenes.  After gentrification takes hold, neighborhoods are commended for having “bounced back” from poverty, ignoring the fact that poverty has usually only been bounced elsewhere … The leading myth is that the only possibilities for neighborhoods are gentrification or urban decay.”

He concludes that

“Instead of either gentrification or decay, cities could push for more equal distribution of resources and more democratic decision-making … The opposite of gentrification isn’t urban decay; it’s the democratization of urban space.”

Well worth reading the entire piece.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

December 18, 2013

Most people assume that “experts” know what they are talking about.  We quite naturally look for some certainty in the information given to us, especially information that we cannot immediately check for ourselves.  However, we are often sadly abused and learn that the so-called “experts” simply have some fancy mathematical formula to cover what is essentially flipping a coin.

The latest lesson in this regard is that Transportation Departments across the US simply have no idea how to predict traffic volumes into the future. Thanks to DC. Streets Blog, we have this graph showing aggregate predictions over a number of years:

traffic volumes

“Combined traffic projections from state and regional transportation agencies (the colored lines) have been wildly off the mark (the black line shows real traffic levels) for more than a decade. Image: SSTI … [T]hese wildly incorrect traffic assumptions are routinely used to justify costly road expansions.”

I’m sure that Jerry Dobrovolny and the City of Vancouver Transportation folks do better than this. Should I be?