Posted by: VPSN | February 25, 2010

The Olympic Effect: Joie de vivre on Robson Street

The vibrant Granville Street streetlife has been getting lots of media plugs lately.  Here the VPSN’s former Pedestrian Coordinator, Tim Barton, with his thoughts about the scene on Robson.

Robson Street has never been so busy. The City has been closing the street to traffic and there are just so many people there. It has become the most popular place to go and hang out in the City. From talking to people and from my own experience though, most people are not going there to line up for hours for a particular exhibit or event (five hours in line for the Canadian Mint anyone?!). Most are going to ‘take in the atmosphere’. What does that mean for urban planners and designers who try to understand why people are drawn to certain places?

People are drawn to people. This of course is not a new idea, but the Olympics have brought it into perspective in Vancouver. People are seeking a communal experience, a sense of community. The high density centre of Vancouver usually means residents walk the streets as relative strangers to each other, not meeting (or even wanting to meet) anyone they know. This time though, people want to experience something as a community. I think it’s more than a communal experience though, people are also drawn to being part of a common identity, in this case Canadian. If in doubt about this, just ask The Bay. I have never seen so many people wearing the same ‘uniform’ outside of a sporting venue. In fact, it is a great visual example of community through common identity.

In Vancouver, we are making this happen through temporary street closures or similar. Robson Street and Robson Square would not usually be described as great squares or meeting places. However, right now, they’re doing an amazing job. The French have an expression – joie de vivre (joy of living). Robson Street is currently the definition of it. And it is wonderful.

You can check out Tim’s own blog here.



  1. I found Robson St (away from Robson Square, that is), rather disappointing.

    In total contrast to the Yaletown BIA which actually programmed their street closure with vendors and food and buskers and djs and dancing…. there was absolutely nothing new on Robson. They had a street closure and tons of people and the BIA apparently did nothing. I was honestly flabbergasted. How about a few new vendors? Some seating? Some music? Organize a street hockey tournament? Anything??! All those poor people who wandered up to Robson @ Jervis found nothing to do except shop at the Gap. that’s a bummer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: