February 07 2013

Taking to the Street: Redefining Public Space in Vancouver, British Columbia

The Lunch Meet Series in full swing

How can city streets be better used to create a sense of community and engage locals in conversations about public space? That’s the question that The Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN), a grassroots organization focused on public space issues, sought to explore during their four week “Lunch Meet Series“ last summer.

Each Thursday during July 2012 the VPSN, in conjunction with Viva Vancouver and local landscape architecture firm Space2Place, transformed a block of downtown Vancouver into a bustling long-tabled cafeteria space over the lunch hour. The series offered participants, mostly workers from surrounding businesses, the opportunity to taste dishes provided by local eateries or to simply enjoy their own packed lunch in the sunshine while surrounded by new friends.

The series was well attended and successfully completed its goals of bringing locals together and taking to the street to create an awareness of public space and urban design issues in the city. Despite the short duration of the project, the series left many with broader questions about how public space is used in Vancouver and, additionally, how it can be temporarily created. Far too frequently our “public” spaces are actually privately owned and regulated, urging us to consume a $5 latte or pay an astronomical amount for parking in order to enjoy a little outdoor time in the middle of a busy workday. The VPSN Lunch Meet model combats these deterrents to public space enjoyment by taking back the streets and returning them to the people for communal use.

A typical mid-day view of Vancouver's Hastings Street

As the winter months draw to a close and warmer weather returns to British Columbia’s coast, Vancouverites await an announcement from the VPSN as to whether the Lunch Meet Series will return to the streets this summer. In the meantime, we are at least left with some quality inspiration as to how similar projects could open public spaces in unexpected locations.

How is public space created in your community? How can we begin to see value in spaces traditionally designated for one purpose alone?

Credits: Images linked to sources and by Shannon McDonald. Data linked to sources.

Courtney McLaughlin

Courtney McLaughlin holds an undergraduate degree in Communication Studies from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. An avid traveler, her interests are public space modification in Canadian cities and sustainable urban planning. As an aspiring landscape architect, Courtney is particularly fascinated by the interplay of landscape architecture, public space, and urban power structures. During her time writing for The Grid, Courtney reported on urban developments in Vancouver, a city frequently named one of the world’s “most liveable” urban locations. Her blog posts explored how this title has been maintained through sustainable and accessible urban design decisions that pride themselves on community engagement.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, February 7th, 2013 at 9:04 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Environmental Design, Infrastructure, Land Use, Social/Demographics, Transportation, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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2 Responses to “Taking to the Street: Redefining Public Space in Vancouver, British Columbia”

  1. Nick Danty Says:

    Well done!

  2. Courtney McLaughlin Says:

    Thank you for the feedback, Nick!

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