Le Corbusier: 50 Years

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To mark the 50th anniversary of Le Corbusier’s death, a number of interesting retrospectives have been published looking back at his life and work, including this collection of documentaries, this gallery of the architecture of Chandigarh, this short radio piece on his collaboration with facist governments during and after WWII, and in the spirit of experimental radio of the 1960s, this segment where they “cambriole” Le Corbusier’s flat.

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Cycling Planning in Small Cities (It Can be Done!)

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Parking Craters

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Transforming Streets in NYC

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Cycling in New Developments

An excellent primer on how infrastructure can be incorporated into greenfield developments to encourage cycling.

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They tear down …

They tear down houses, don’t they?
They’re building tombs instead of homes
They come with bulldozers to build their condominiums
And they just rush down on, don’t they?
The ones who jet to buy these things
The ones who still pay rent but somehow think they own something
And I know that money talks and I know response is great
But it still breaks my heart to see our old homes torn away.

Well, I know that cities grow and so do the housing needs
This doesn’t smell like demand, it only reeks of greed
And I know that money talks and I know response is great
But it still breaks my heart to see our old homes torn away.
They tear down houses, don’t they?
They’re building tombs instead of homes
They come with bulldozers to build their condominiums.
And they just rush down on, don’t they?
The ones who jet to buy these things
The ones who still pay rent but somehow think they own something.

They tear down houses, don’t they?
They tear down houses, don’t they?
They tear down houses, don’t they?
They tear them down.
They tear them down.

They tear down houses, don’t they?
They’re building tombs instead of homes
They come with bulldozers to build their condominiums
And they just rush down on, don’t they?
The ones who jet to buy these things
The ones who still pay rent but somehow think they own somethin

They Tear Down Houses, Don’t They? Shout, Out, Out, Out

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Erasing Memory The Tragedy of Union du Canada

IMG_7163The ongoing demolition of the Union du Canada building in the ByWard market is a tragedy. Sanctioned by Ottawa City Council, the destruction of this architectural treasure is one more sign of consuming desire by developers to destroy significant cultural and architectural landmarks – and of city planners too willing to acquiesce to their demands.

In the case of the Union du Canada building, well-researched community-led research brought to light the historical and architectural value of this building. In face of this opposition to the condo-hotel project, the developer and city planners reassured the citizens that the new building would re-use the skeleton of the building and deploy design features that reflected its impressive International Style pedigree.

Despite such assurances, Claridge Homes, the local condominium behemoth, later forwarded an application to raze the building to the ground. This proposal, recently approved by city hall, shows a mean-spirited willingness to deceive local concerned residents and exemplifies how developers co-opt the planning process to maximize their profits and minimize their responsibilities. Intensification policies – once created to inject vibrancy into central cities ¬– are now being perverted by condominium developers to extract every bit of profit from every tiny parcel of land in the downtown core, with little or no concern for the long-term impact on the urban fabric. How are we to trust developers with such a volte-face? How are we to trust politicians who seem to be more willing to listen to those with money than those who elected them?

With demolition of Union du Canada, the city will lose one more piece of its heritage and a central marker of Francophone presence in the ByWard Market will be erased. In decades time we will look on this episode, as we do now with the Daly building, as a fool hearty destruction of architectural history for short-sighted planning goals in mind. Then modernist traffic engineering demanded the destruction of the building, today the demolition meets the demands of limitless intensification, and with it the erasing a part of our collective urban identity. Indeed, all that is solid does melt into air.

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