Posted by: Andrew Pask | June 4, 2011

Watching, walking, celebrating… city-living during Canada’s game

The Road to the Stanley Cup 2011: The Winning Goal - Crop

Photo by Jeremy Lim

Fancy some weekend reading on the Canucks and the impact of the Stanley Cup playoff series on public space?  Today’s Globe and Mail contains an article by Frances Bula that looks at celebrations in the suburbs, and the possbiliities for public gathering in communities around Vancouver.

I was interviewed for the piece, along with a handful of civic officials from Vancouver and other municipalities. It gave me a chance to think revisit some of the ways that public space(s) get used during big events like this.  (And hasn’t Vancouver been the city for this sort of action in the past 15 months?)

One of the points that seemed most apparent was that there are really two different sorts of activities that can and are being programmed into public space around the Canucks run at the Cip: (1) watching the game and, (2) post game activities (hopefully of the celebratory sort). These two activities generally require different kinds of space, and cities – suburban or not – that want to plan for celebrations, etc of this scale should account for that.

In practice, people want to be stationary for the duration of the game… and afterwards they want to move. Enclosed spaces with screens, etc (square, plaza, pub – a social space, even a street that has been turned into a square)  work well for the former, less well for the latter. That’s where the main strip – usually a central commercial artery with a decent mix of restaurants, bars, etc (sources of people to pour into the street) – comes into play. It affords people a chance to do the post-game people-watching, high-five dispensing stroll.

The design of suburbs often means that there are shortfalls in both types of spaces… Many suburbs (at least those ‘classic’ suburbs that people tend to think of), aren’t built to accomodate that sort of activity.

Another challenge for satellite cities: the sort of celebratory spaces required generally work best when they’re downtown, accessible, central to the action, and at a scale that makes them friendly for pedestrian activity.  But there’s more to it than that big celebrations, events, tend to draw people downtown to the core of the region.  There is always a strong physical and symbolic pull to the ‘heart’ of the action.  (This may change as suburbs grow and mature…and there are certainly attempts to create this sort ‘pull’ in Surrey and Burnaby,  but the point that needs to be remembered is that downtown draw is about more than just creating a space for gathering).

But what if you can’t get downtown and your suburb doesn’t have a good spot to gather?  Where planned celebration spaces dont exist, people will still ‘take to the streets’ and work with what they have (Check out Scott Rd and 72nd in Surrey on many regular season game nights). Social activity of this celebratory sort catalyses a self organizing principle within neighbourhoods, cities and suburbs alike.

And to be sure, even spaces that are designed for gathering/celebration, etc don’t always work well. Sometimes the good design intent behind one purpose-built space falls short when put next to another perhaps entirely different sort of space that just happens to feel like a better spot to cheer the winning team.

:: Click here to read – Frances Bula. Suburbs struggle to find a place to party.

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