Vancouver, verse-dreaming and architecture

The book A Verse Map of Vancouver launched on Tuesday, at the Vancouver Public Library.
A Verse Map of Vancouver book cover

It was edited by Vancouver’s poet laureate, George McWhirter, accentuated with photography by Derek von Essen and published by local publisher Anvil Press. When I am done cuddling with it in bed, it will live on my bookshelf, an appropriate transition between the literature/poetry and urban studies clusters – perhaps City of Glass on one side and East/West, the Toronto book, on the other.

While I sat there hearing poets read their poems about beloved intersections, buses, parks and avenues, the dreamy, writing part of my brain shakes hands with the newly-formed part of my brain that, last week, had been stretched to its limits pouring over cross-sections, design rationales and site plans as a reviewer for the Vancouver Public Space Network‘s public space imagining contest called Where’s The Square.
Drawing of a proposal for Georgia. Not part of the contest.
It struck me that the worlds being described to me in poetry are precisely what will be lost if and when any of the visions sketched, modelled and described, become reality.

Don’t misunderstand me in my use of the word lost, though; I mean lost in the sense that one loses cruft to code refactoring, or a caterpillar loses its cocoon to stretch its wings as a butterfly, or an injured leg loses its cast. It will change, in the sense that things must change in order to become something more. In seizing that chance there is potential for failure as well as greatness, fear and trepidation while bracing for the dive into doing and done.

The final judgments are not up to one person; not a group of distinguished persons or celebrity judges; or even the pronouncements of a field of study or profession like architecture or urban design. It’s the citizens, visitors, neighbours, lunching office workers, fountain splashers, musicians and performers, living and breathing life and breath into our public space.

(Photo from flickr user Stephanie Hobson.)

Where’s The Square Shortlisting

The next step in the VPSN contest is announcing the shortlisted entries for the competition on April 28th, at The Roundhouse Community Centre. Here’s the event info:

Over the last few months the Vancouver Public Space Network has been running a Design Ideas Competition that encouraged participants to create drawings and plans for a grand gathering space in Vancouver. Our aim was to provide a forum for ideas about what a grand gathering place in Vancouver might look like, and what social, cultural, economic and/or artistic role this square might play in the life of our city.

On April 28, 2009, join us for a fun-filled and exciting evening as we present the very best of the entries. Over 50 design teams submitted proposals. We’ll be unveiling the designs that made the shortlist. And best of all, you’ll get a chance to vote for your favourite.

As an added bonus, the evening will also feature a short program of events that focus on the artistic aspects of public gathering places, with special guest speakers and live entertainment.

Doors open at 6:00pm and the evening’s events start at 7:00pm.

The event is free and takes place at the Roundhouse Community Centre, 181 Roundhouse Mews at the corner of Davie & Pacific. For more information please see, or email us at

Dear friend-in-whimsy Dustin has also posted his submission to the contest at We’ll find out soon if he and his teammates made the shortlist! :)

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