Saturday, 18 March 2017

Urban Art in North Park

Art on a building still seems to sometimes catch you off guard. At first it seems like a juxtaposition to have a wall be anything more than bricks and beige paint, but the more
bland the original structure the more appropriate it is as a canvas. It is also transformative in the same way most public art is but with a much lower bar for entry. Sculpture can cost many thousands of dollars, whereas a building mural can be had for the cost of paint and an artist with the time to do it (I am not at all devaluing the time of a visual artist!).

As you walk around North Park there are numerous examples of buildings with murals, graffiti art and painted business signs already. With some encouragement, I think that through art, North Park could have an even more distinct identity than it already has. 
Multiple buildings covered in art on Mason

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You may remember one of the posts I did about Portland Oregon last year and its Alberta Arts District. Originally, this was a marginalised part of Portland. Through a relaxation of feelings towards art on buildings and a large artist
Parking lot behind Welburns
population in the area, the neighbourhood was covered in art of all forms and it is now one of the must see areas of Portland. With art seeming to sneak up on you in unsuspecting places, walking along Alberta Street makes you happy and entices your senses. 

While replication can often come across as crass, I think that using the example of the Alberta Arts District as a possible direction for North Park is appropriate because on its own art has already spread all over the neighbourhood. 
Wildfire Bakery

In a few easy steps, North Park could take ownership of this. First there would have to be an identification of the area that should be part of the art district. This could be the whole neighbourhood or only specific hub areas. 

Second would be seeking support through the City for this arts district, which in turn the city could support through its powers. The City could easily encourage art on buildings through property tax rebates for art installations. Going forward the City could mandate that any new project in the area have a space for art on the building.  

I think that North Park is already one of the most interesting neighbourhoods in the city, with its diversity of building forms and uses. Taking the already growing amount of building art and deciding that it should not just be a small part of the identity of North Park could be the beginning of making the neighbourhood the single most interesting place in the whole city.

A couple more:

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Urban Oases of Victoria - The Atrium Building

Most of my favourite urban oases have at least a little bit, but usually a lot of nature. They for a moment take you away from the idea that you are in the city. There are a few places, however, that embody the urban feel and yet are still a sanctuary from the buzz of the street. These are wholly created spaces. The Atrium building on Yates and Blanshard in Victoria is one. This is not a peaceful garden or winding path through a park. What makes the Atrium amazing is that it is a truly a piece of the city that you can relax in. 

The building was designed by Franc D'Ambrosio, one of Victoria's most prolific and visionary architects. Those that read often will remember that I don't always think that he has been fully successful; the goals he has with each project however, are impressive. On the website for his architecture firm, there is a film about the Atrium building and it is clear that this project must be one of the most successful implementations of his vision. The idea truly was to create a public gathering place inside a private office building. 

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Walk into the lobby of most office buildings and you are confronted by a security desk. There is not a strong sense that you are wanted to stay. Walking into the Atrium, the doors move out of your way automatically and no matter whether you are walking in from the southern or western entrance there is feeling that you should completely come into the building. Entering off of Blanshard the building actually pulls you into the atrium away from from the security desk, which is tucked in a corner, out of sight. 

When standing in the middle of the atrium you get a sense of place. Even with a lot of people in there at the stores, having coffee, or just sitting and talking with friends, there is a quiet that is relaxing. 

One of the reasons that the space is so successful is its amazing design. The ceiling, seven floors up is glass and the surrounding walls of wood undulate around the plaza. Even a feature as mundane and fabricated as the elevators are a piece of moving art here. 

The seating is usually more spread out, however it
looked as though an event had just finished. 
Despite the amazing architecture, one of my favourite parts of the atrium is the seating that is available. There are two circular wooden pieces of art that ask you to sit on them. There are also sets of long tables and benches that encourage sitting and having a conversation. It in many ways resembles the ad hoc conversation places you see at universities.  

Next time you are walking by stop and get a coffee at Habit, sit at one of the tables, watch the people coming through, and enjoy the quiet of the space.