A couple of eagle eyed VPSN members alerted us to the recent travel article in the February 14, 2010 edition of the New York Times.
Blame the great outdoors, but Vancouver lacks a central square — a place for citizens to turn inward and for visitors to feel that they have arrived.
It’s not the first time that these sorts of comments have been made, but as the Olympics roll-out across the city, it seems a timely reminder about the roll that grand public squares play in other cities.
At peak times, the downtown core of Vancouver will be seeing between 100,000 and 200,000 visitors pouring in — to catch sporting events, visit Live Sites and pavilions, and wind their way through the city’s streets and public spaces.
Granville Street and the Robson corridor between Granville and Burrard will be acting as stand-ins for our ‘missing’ downtown square. The pedestrianization of these two streets and there transformation into linear ‘squares’ was a critical step in creating sufficient gathering space for the crowds of Olympic enthusiasts.
Of course it’s a moot point to ask how these Games could play out if we had a larger central public square to add to the mix. ‘Sides, it would sound needlessly grumbly on our part (though for those who are interested, some of the lively possibilities for public gathering space are, in fact, well-profiled in the entries to our Where’s the Square? design competition.)
Our hope rather, is that the Olympic Games show us once and for all that we actually deserve the sort of central gathering space in Vancouver that you find in other cities. Temporarily pedestrianized streets are wonderful, but something more permanent and even more conducive to large public gatherings would be ideal. We may not get the Olympics again, but there’s no need to turn our back on other large gatherings.
At times during our Where’s the Square? Design Competition we heard a line of argument that suggested that the City and its residents were too focused on the mountains to want a central public square. This argument always seemed a bit dubious to us (what? Vancouverites aren’t capable of liking and partaking in both types of space?).
It’s only been a few days, but the Olympics have already shown us a different side to the city’s public life. Want a good legacy for the Games? Let’s make this the year that we finally get serious about planning for a central public square.