This was the final project for my spring studio in the Environmental Design program at UBC.
Oakridge sits in the geographic center of Vancouver, a location carefully chosen by the Woodwards family in the 1950s when developing the city’s first car-oriented shopping mall. Following the trend established by the mall, the surrounding neighbourhood was designed for the vehicle, with little infrastructure available to pedestrians and cyclists. With the Canada Line in place, and density increasing, we have the opportunity begin to break the car-centric land use patterns and focus on the human scale.
Oakridge mall and the surrounding neighbourhood was designed for the automobile. With the introduction of the Canada Line, and more shoppers arriving by transit, much of the parking area can now be reworked for alternative uses.
Many pedestrian routes are blocked by private property and no trespassing signs. The West edge of the mall appears as an impenetrable fortress with wide expanses of brick and few openings or entrances.
The site is currently bordered by chainlink fencing on the west edge. ‘‘…as realized in our cities the insensitive engineer`s methods of enclosure are the most common and most fruitful sources of visual crime.‘‘ (from The Concise Townscape by Gordon Cullen)
The existing green space on site is currently littered with abandoned shopping carts, electronics, and garbage. Still, it remains a place where children play in puddles and adults venture out for evening strolls.
1. ENHANCE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN EXISTING PROGRAMS
In addition to Oakridge Mall, program immediately surrounding the site includes a High School, private hospital, preschool, senior centre, public library, daycare and cycling route. Developing the site as a shared public space will enhance connections between these programs and allow the area to become the heart of the Oakridge community.
2. RECOGNIZE THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE SITE
The natural history of the site is quite rich. Oakridge was filled with old growth forest for thousands of years. At the turn of the century logging cleared the site and it sat as a wetland until being developed in the late 50s. What is now an expanse of paved parking was once the headwaters of a historic stream, which meandered South to the Fraser River.
3. INTEGRATE OPEN SPACE NETWORKS AT THE CITY SCALE
The natural fabric of the city has become fragmented. Parks sit as islands in a sea of development. What if there was a way to reconnect that fabric through integration with an urban system: Vancouver’s widely used network of cycling routes?
The first move I’m proposing is to realign the Heather Bike route to flow through the Oakridge site, integrating the site with the city-wide open space network and developing the site as a central node within the system.
The site is organized according to the urban grid, which governs the layout of Vancouver’s streets as well as elements such as telephone poles, street lights etc. At present, there is no order acting on the site. The mall is angled 45 degrees off the street grid and all the surrounding buildings seem to have their own logic/lack of logic. These two elements combine make for a disorienting environment. By bringing the grid into the site, the design will force visitors to reorient themselves in a North/South, East West fashion basically aligning themselves to the logic of the rest of the city and removing the sense of disorientation.
“A person should be able to walk through a forest on the way from home from work.”
At the North end of the site, fronting 41st Ave – the busiest edge of the park – the urban grid infiltrates into the site. This part of the park is composed of a forest of Douglas Fir trees, planted at 10-meter intervals, which a division of the roughly 20m urban grid that organizing the surrounding neighbourhoods. This planting, while recognizing the natural history of the site is also a buffer against the noise and activity along the roadway and an extension of the King David High School grounds. A meandering path begins it’s flow through the site, continuing the Heather Bike route and leading visitors to the centre of the park. The path is built of stone pavers and is cut into the lanscape at the edges, revealing the underlying layers of the ground and providing backlit gabion seating.
In the world of fashion, which is always somehow fascinating, things move much faster than architecture – getting dressed, getting undressed, transforming oneself, giving shape, trying out sculptural possibilities, examining the quality of surface texture, inventing a style and discarding it again. Fashion affects all of us because everybody wears something and expresses something with what he or she wears.
Herzog & de Meuron
In the middle of the park, the canopy opens up to a grove of aspens and birch allowing full light through in the winter months and mottled shade in the summer. This is the most active part of the site, the confluence of pathways. Surrounding a central plaza – and echoing the Douglas fir grove to the North of the site – is a bosc of repurposed telephone poles. As well as highlighting our alteration of a natural forest for our own ends, these poles will also provide a functional framework for a range of activities spilling out from the senior centre, library, preschool, and mall. Just like the world of fashion, this framework can be dressed to suit different occasions – a tensile roof for an outdoor fashion show, lighting for an evening banquet, stalls for a Sunday market, a projection screen for an art show or movie night.
We came from the water; our bodies are largely water; and water plays a fundamental role in our psychology. We need constant access to water, all around us; and we cannot have it without reverence for water in all forms. But everywhere in cities, water is out of reach.
Christopher Alexander, A Pattern Language
At the south of the park, at a natural low point on the site, and fronted by a number of residential towers, the site opens fully onto a reconstructed wetland. A grassy knoll provides a visual break in the park, allowing for a space for quieter activities while the southfacing slope provides a sun trap for cooler days. Fallen telephone poles serving as retaining devices for the slopes are also a static expression of dynamic processes, both the natural evolution and succession of a forest ecosystem as well as 200 years of logging in British Columbia. A wooden boardwalk leads away from the site, connecting to adjacent residential areas and the nearby Tisdall Park. Water plays an important role here. As well as providing aesthetic enjoyment, it also filters stormwater generated onsite and recognizes the area as being the headwaters of a historic stream.