Vancouver, British Columbia
Photo Credit: HCMA Architecture + Design
Initial Research by: Vincent Rara
Edited by: Samantha Miller & Nicole Brekelmans
Case study compiled in 2019
Type of Urban Strategy: Smart Cities
Type of Project: Alleyway Renewal
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia
Date Designed/Planned: 2015
Construction Completed: 2016
Designer: HCMA Architecture + Design
Alley-Oop is a joint venture started by DVBIA (Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association) who were looking to transform underutilized spaces throughout the downtown core. Property owners, businesses and tenants were asked to provide ideas of how the downtown could evolve. A common theme emerged after interviews, and the results highlighted that people want a network of unique pedestrian-friendly spaces. HCMA established the guidelines for future alleyway redevelopment. Alleyways were re-imagined not as thoroughfares, but as destination points that would link pedestrians to businesses at street level. Today, the impact of Alley-Oop is both measurable and ongoing. Deliveries and garbage pickup coexist with popup events and photo-ops. Foot traffic has increased, and more women than men now utilize the space.
PROJECT BACKGROUND AND HISTORY
In 2015 DVBIA created the Reimagine Downtown Vancouver consultation process to understand what people wanted Vancouver to look, feel, taste and smell like in 2040 (Dtvan, n.d.). The following timeline highlights important events:
-18 months before completion: Research and measurement
-1 year before completion: Develop the concept, present the concept to essential stakeholders, and start approaching potential partners and engage the neighbourhood
-9 months before completion: Finalize the design, create construction drawings and secure funding
-6 months before completion: Secure necessary permits and contractors
-2 months before completion: Implement the plan and begin construction
-One month before completion: Plan launch event and engage the media
-Complete project in 2016 and launch the program
GOAL OF THE PROJECT
DESIGN, DEVELOPMENT, AND DECISION MAKING PROCESS
ROLE OF DESIGNERS
DVBIA looked to HCMA Architecture + Design for their work in creating TILT Curiosity Labs. TILT is devoted to playful discovery in the public realm, which pushes the way architects contribute to the city” (Dtvan, 2018). A set of guiding principles were formed to ensure the project would remain faithful to the findings of DVBIA’s 2015 Reimagine Downtown Vancouver report.
The five guiding principles for the More Awesome Laneway Project are:
1. These installations will result in a new way of defining and seeing the laneway and its uses - a transformation of public perception/experience of the space.
2. These will be semi-permanent or permanent installations, ultimately contributing to the reinvention of Vancouver’s laneways, not just a temporary festival.
3. These new spaces will not only benefit the space and businesses on the other side of the wall but will also address the entire lane as a “micro-social precinct" resulting in meaningful new spaces for the public to use.
4. While these installations will enhance the sensory experience and create a clean and safe environment for everybody, they will not shy away from grit, risk, and juxtaposition.
5. These installations will remain in keeping with the Reimagine Downtown Vancouver report and become aspirational projects, unique to Vancouver that will inspire other cities to activate their lanes.
The DVBIA selected the locations and HCMA created the concept of juxtaposition: highlighting the real character and successes of the neighbourhoods by showcasing the opposite. The first lane is in the financial district, which is characterized by work, so the juxtaposition would be a laneway that celebrates play. Insular entertainment venues in the entertainment district characterize the second lane, so the juxtaposition is an exterior entertainment venue for the public to enjoy. The third lane is in the high fashion district, characterized by global international retailers, so the juxtaposition is local markets (Dtvan, 2018).
GENESIS OF THE PROJECT
“Laneways.” Dtvan.ca. Accessed March 12, 2019. https://www.dtvan.ca/what-we-do/placemaking/laneways/
“A Vision for Downtown Vancouver: a look back at the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association’s Work since 2010.” Dtvan.ca. Accessed March 12, 2019. https://www.dtvan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Full-Doc.pdf
Marotte, Bertrand. “Montreal’s green laneway trend is paved with good intentions.” Theglobeandmail.com. Published August 6, 2018. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/real-estate/article-montreals-green-laneway-trend-is-paved-with-good-intentions/
“More Awesome Now Laneway Activations.” Hcma.ca. Accessed March 12, 2019. https://hcma.ca/project/more-awesome-now/
“More Awesome Now Learning Guide.” Dtvan.ca. Published 2018. https://www.dtvan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Laneway_Learning_Guide.pdf
Robinson, Matt. “Three downtown Vancouver alleys to get extreme makeovers.” Vancouversun.com. Published September 16, 2016. https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/three-downtown-vancouver-alleys-to-get-makeovers
Torres, Gabriela. “Top 5 Alleyways to Explore Vibrant Art in Vancouver.” 604now.com. Published January 11, 2018. https://604now.com/vancouver-alleyways-art/
Walls and the street were painted in bright colours to change the atmosphere of the space. Areas became patio spaces, and the basketball hoop encouraged activity and play (Dtvan, 2018). DVBIA purchased movable furniture for the space, so that people could adapt and use the space as they wished (Dtvan, 2018).
MAINTENANCE + MANAGEMENT
Maintenance, programming, repairs, re-painting, etc., require ongoing funds and budget. DVBIA partnered with local businesses that manage the cleanliness around their designated seating areas (Dtvan, 2018). The street-level tenants are two coffee shops and a nightclub that activate the laneway daily and use the space to test and host retail, food, and beverage outlets. In exchange for their services, DVBIA purchased furniture and helped the businesses obtain the necessary permissions associated with ongoing programming changes.