I went to a dance performance in the new The Atrium building as part of Victoria’s Dance Days festival. The Atrium is a private building with a big courtyard with restaurants and shops bordering on it – basically a contemporary, upscale take on a mall, although I’m sure the architect would hate to hear me say that.
The dancers were three women and a man, wearing street clothes with some face makeup. Their style was contemporary: afterward one of them told me that the spatial and emotional structure of the piece was planned but the individual moves were improvised. There was a sign on an easel by the main entrance that just said “Dance Days brought to you by YAM magazine” – there was no spoken introduction. A camera person filmed the performance with a hand-held camera and there was a photographer at the start. There was no music, just ambient noise from a coffee shop.
There were at most a dozen audience members who seemed to know what was going on, everyone else were just passing through or sitting in an adjacent restaurant. For me, the piece raised some critical questions:
What separates the dancers from normal people and from crazy people? How do we know that those people are dancing and other people aren’t? Their sign, makeup, camera person, training, schedule and audience are what make them official, not anything inherent in their actions. (As you can see in my photos, I was a bit obsessed with the sign.)
It felt like the sort of thing you might watch in a public square or a park – how is it significant that The Atrium is private space that feels public? What would happen if me and my friends were to try the same thing? I’m sure the public amenity of The Atrium’s courtyard figured into the development permit, so is this just a case of government outsourcing the creation of public space?
The City of Victoria has floated three designs for the new Johnson Street Bridge. They’re all bascule bridges, meaning they swing up with a counterweight, because that’s the simplest energy-efficient way to build a movable bridge.
- Reverse bascule
The copy says this is inspired by van Gogh’s Drawbridge with Carriage, except that bridge is a double regular bascule, not a single reverse bascule. The inspiration is that, unlike 20th century bascules like the current Strauss bridge, the counterweight is a panel instead of a cement block. It’s hard to make out in the distance sketches, but the way it works is the horizontal panel hinges to vertical when the bridge opens. I can’t find a picture of an open reverse bascule, so I think they must be uncommon.
- Rolling bascule
As far as I can tell, the Canary Wharf area has a bunch of bridges and proposed bridges: one of them is a rolling bascule.* According to the city of Victoria’s director of engineering, the Canary Wharf bridge has the rolling mechanism below the deck with a walkway passing through it: the Victoria version has the rolling mechanism above deck to be more visually striking.
I believe the Te Wero Bridge being built in Auckland is a rolling bascule bridge; I wish Victoria’s bridge could be so cool:
- Cable-stayed bascule
You get to choose your tower shape and angle, as well as how the cables are connected but these bridges all basically look the same:
Writers to the Times Colonist have suggested a replica of the current bridge or of London’s Tower Bridge.
I voted for the rolling bascule because I think it has the best combination of industrial girders to reference the working harbor and stupid modernist curves to reference tourism.
* The City’s website stole the photo from WikiMedia, violating copyright.
The Times Colonist recently ran a series of articles on the poor state of reserve housing in BC. In my reading, they primarily blamed the development process: that chose lowest-bid developers and then didn’t include any quality inspection or performance measures to ensure the developers completed the contract. They also spoke frequently of the physical wear created by overcrowding, although always implying insufficient housing stock, not an attempt to implement extended-family culture in European-style homes.
One issue handled carefully by the journalists was poor maintenance standards: they did not want to suggest that those people were bad tenants. But most recommendations for improvement included, in the small print, training for tenants in housing maintenance. The argument was made that many of the conditions, including poor maintenance, are widespread in ghettos all over the world (no matter what ethnic group is ghettoized). And I would add that making home ownership illegal probably doesn’t help.
I’m not sure why it’s taboo to say that most natives don’t know how to maintain a Western home? Why would they? Reservation schools were successful at dismantling past cultural practices without being successful at assimilation, which would include house-culture. Even if traditional native culture were intact, what relevance would it have to Western homes?
They traditionally haven’t had the experience of building upkeep, and they didn’t need to. If the building returned to the forest, that was what it was supposed to do.
I’m mostly excited about having an Artigiano in Victoria because it has a better location and hopefully better hours than Victoria’s other 1st-tier coffee shops. I don’t expect better coffee, because Discovery, 2% Jazz, and Habit are, by all accounts, competitive with the best in Cascadia. In fact, I find Artigiano’s espresso to be a little bitter.
I’m sitting in Artigiano/Victoria for the first time. I’ve been in Artigiano/Hornby a few times in the last month, so this is a perfect time to contrast the locations.
Artigiano/Victoria is in a two-story-high hotel lobby, strictly partitioned from the hotel by a human-height wood and glass wall. I would have made the wall all-wood because the coffee shop is not so small that it would become claustrophobic without the glass and seeing the hotel is odd. Hanging from the soaring ceilings are huge, round lamps with soft light: they’re interesting, but a far cry from the cozy, fake-stone, lowered ceilings of Artigiano/Hornby. Overall, I’d be less likely to sit in this location than a Mirage or Habit – it feels more like a place to get coffee to go (which ruins the experience of a high-end espresso).
The coffee, however, is better than Artigiano/Hornby’s: more smooth and with a better flavor balance. It’s a shame Artigiano couldn’t get a better location for their first store in Victoria, but I’ll be back for the coffee.
Artists and architects (or at least academics and historians thereof) have an insatiable need to label minute trends in their disciplines. As a result, the “postmodern period” in art took place during the summer of 1978 or something like that. In contrast, in philosophy and the social sciences, postmodernism started with/after Kant and is still slowly gathering steam. The (otherwise unremarkable) pop-architecture book The Seduction of Place: The History and Future of Cities has a nice line about the difference:
Postmodernism has now been given a rather different implication and weight by sociologists and geographers, who are concerned with the way categories of knowledge develop within late capitalist society in harness with power and privilege.
This is a Foucaultian view in its emphasis on the study of power-relations. I have only recently come across the idea that postmodernism is an ontological pursuit (what exists?) compared to modernism as an epistemological pursuit (what can we know?), so I can’t say more about that.