Well, he’s actually talking about England, but every word of what he’s saying applies here. Read the entire speech after the break.
Many people believe, erroneously, that the only way to achieve environmental efficiencies in development is by building very tall buildings. Indeed, improving the average density of building in England is critical to achieving “location efficiency,” which reduces automobile use and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as minimizing land-take. But these efficiencies only begin to occur at 17 units to the hectare, when public transport becomes feasible, and begin to tail off at densities above 70 units to the hectare, according to a definitive research study from the United States which has recently been applied by my Foundation in a London project. This is because achieving environmental gains is a function of density, access to public transport and walkable, connected streets. Pedestrian street access becomes more difficult at higher density. Indeed, there is also a question about whether London’s overstressed public transport network can actually handle greater density at the centre. Creating visual pollution is not the answer to achieving greater efficiency. […]
The argument has been made that London must build tall buildings in order to protect its place as a global financial centre. […] I am not opposed to all tall buildings. My concern is that they should be considered in their context; in other words, they should be put where they fit properly. If new vertical cul-de-sacs are to be built, then it seems self-evident to me that they should stand together to establish a new skyline, and not compete with or confuse what is currently there – as has already happened to a depressing and disastrous extent.
There is a very real and urgent risk looming over us that in the drive to make historic cities like London and Edinburgh “world cities” in the commercial sense, we simply make them more like every other city in the world and in so doing dishonour and discredit their status, character and local distinctiveness. In “A Vision of Britain,” I suggested that the impact of new buildings could be softened by an acceptance of the existing street rhythms and plot sizes and that the buildings in a city such as London, Edinburgh or even Bath or Ealing are the individual brushstrokes of a grand composition, which works because all the participants understood the basic rules and “grammar,” with harmony being the pleasing result. This lesson is, I believe, still as relevant today as it was in the Enlightenment, when builders sought to remake their cities to compete on a new stage. For the past sixty years or so we have been conducting an experiment in social and environmental engineering that has gone disastrously wrong.
(via Martin Laplante.)
Filed under: griffintown
Montreal City Council votes tonight on approving the PPU that allows Devimco’s project to go forward.
If you can be there today, you’ll need to get to City Hall by 4:30pm to register to ask questions, then return at 6:30 to get your speaking order number before the session starts at 7pm.
If you can’t be there today, express your dissatisfaction with the process by calling or emailing your city councillor. It only takes a few minutes and it means a lot. (PLEASE — be polite when doing so.)
Currently, we are urging them to not approve the current PPU, and to extend public consultation on the project to allow for appropriate time for citizens and organizations to examine the revised project that was announced this week by the City and Devimco. The word of the day is “What’s the rush?”
You can find out who represents you on city council by using this page at the City’s website. Just choose “Conseiller de la Ville” from the Title popup, then select your borough (Arrondissement) from the one below that. It should return the list of all the councillors that represent you.
For the Sud-Ouest borough which includes St-Henri, Little Burgundy, Griffintown, and Pointe-St-Charles, the councillors are:
Jean-Yves Cartier – email firstname.lastname@example.org
Line Hamel – email email@example.com
Jacqueline Montpetit (also the borough mayor) – email firstname.lastname@example.org
They share a common set of phone and fax numbers at the borough city hall:
tel: 514 872-6814 fax: 514 872-3705
If you haven’t already done so, sign the petition, or urge your friends, family and colleagues to do so! Between electronic and paper versions we’ve got over 700 signatures and it’d be great if we could break 1000.
Filed under: griffintown
In this pic: Myself, Chris Gobeil and Chris Erb of the Committee for the Sustainable Redevelopment of Griffintown, posing as pallbearers with the casket containing the ghosts of Griffintown. Originally uploaded by maZe Canadia
It was a funeral not for a neighborhood, but for good urban planning and real civic democracy, both of which have been markedly absent during the entire process.
About 150 people turned out for the march, including people young and old, walking, wheeling or with assistance, dogs and horses too. We got quite a bit of press coverage and I was briefly interviewed by CTV News, who have a video piece up about the Horse Palace here. (Windows Media).
Filed under: griffintown
Don’t forget to come to the Montreal Citizens’ Forum tonight (see previous post).
This Sunday, April 27th, there’ll be a march from the Griffintown Horse Palace (1200 Ottawa street, near De La Montagne) to Place D’Armes, and then a mock funeral procession from there to City Hall. Families, kids, dogs, and horses are all welcome. The march starts at 3pm, the funeral procession at 3:45pm.
Filed under: griffintown
The Montreal Citizens’ Forum will present a public information meeting on Griffintown, Thursday, April 24, 2008. The meeting will be held at St. James United Church – entrance is at 1440 Saint-Alexandre, just off of Sainte-Catherine Street.
Speakers will include:
- Joseph Baker: Architect, past president of the Quebec Order of Architects. Former director of the School of Architecture, Universite Laval
- Lucia Kowaluk: Community Organizer, past coordinator of the Urban Ecology Centre of Montreal. President, Milton-Parc Citizens Committee
- Raphael Fischler: Professor, School of Urban Planning, McGill University
- Michel Gariepy: Professor, Institut d’Urbanisme, Université de Montréal
- Henry Aubin: Columnist, The Gazette
- Chris Gobeil: Spokesperson, The Committee for the Sustainable Re-Development of Griffintown
For more information, check out their website: http://www.montrealcitizenforum.org/
New to the site? Here’s some links to past articles to give you some background and bring you up to date.
If you’re interested in joining and supporting the local citizens’ movement, check out the Committee for the Sustainable Redevelopment of Griffintown at csrgriffintown.wordpress.com.
Phyllis Lambert and the Quebec Order of Architects call for a moratorium on Projet Griffintown, calling for it to be rethought and for proper city-wide public consultations to be held via the Office des consultations publiques de Montréal.
If you agree, maybe you should sign the petition.
Why The Swedes Are Right, And Claude Provencher Is Wrong. Background on two Swedish eco-friendly developments roughly the same size as Griffintown, which further proves the kind of thinking the Gazette article discussed. Also calls into question architect Provencher’s unquestioning support for the project, compared to much better-thought-out projects he’s worked on such as the Quartier International and condos at the east end of the Old Port.
McGill architecture professor Robert Mellin writes about the project he and his graduate students have worked on for the past year or so, envisioning a sustainable “eco-industrial” role for Griffintown and the Lachine Canal.
Architecture profs Pierre Gauthier and David Hanna addressed the Little Burgundy Coalition about the impact of the Griffintown project back in February.
Jean-Claude Marsan wrote a damning op-ed for La Presse on February 6th: Montreal deserves better.
City agencies worry that the Griffintown project will threaten Montreal’s UNESCO World Heritage City status.
McGill’s Raphael Fischler wrote in December that Projet Griffintown represented a potential commercial threat to downtown, and lamented its oversize nature.
Images from Devimco’s proposal. Note that they backtracked and said the architecture wasn’t final; this was to show approximate massing. If anything looks less like “Montreal,” it’s hard to say.
Our vision. We kicked off this blog as an extension of a presentation we gave at the SAT’s Pecha Kucha design show-and-tell night back in September 2007, and we Photoshopped Montreal-style buildings over Devimco’s horrible Dix-30 shopping centre to show that building real, livable streets isn’t that difficult.
Since then, we were treated to other wonderful presentations showing other visions of the project, such as Pro-Pointe’s eco-condo concepts, (PDF, 3MB) and urban planner Steven Peck’s comparison of modern Irish cities with Griffintown’s history. (PPT, 12MB). (Check out all the memoranda from citizens and groups here at the City of Montreal’s website.)
We’ve noted time and time again that you don’t need tall buildings to have density, as European cities show. And as Pointe St. Charles residents have demonstrated in their self-generated plans for the Alstom / CN rail yards, good urban design can come from the grassroots up.