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Olympic village history and state of construction

January 8th, 2009 · 7 Comments

I got a chance this week to go around the Olympic village site under construction — quite a hike, by the way. It’s hard to understand how big a project this is until you actually walk around it. You can read my Globe story on that tour here.

It also has a very interesting feel to it — more like the West End than the point and tower openness of the north side of False Creek. The streets and spaces between buildings are quite narrow and the buildings are relatively low, so that it feels more enclosed and connected.

Design manager Roger Bayley told me that when he gives talks about the village to international audiences, that different look and feel is what they pick up on. Bayley also said the design is specifically meant to encourage more cross-connection among residents. Because they’re so close and their paths will intersect more in the common gardens, the staircases built on the ends of the glass-enclosed buildings, the streets and so on, the design will foster interaction.

It will be interesting to see, five years from now, whether that works out.

I also have a second story on how the village and city arrived at the financial situation they’re in now. It was interesting to go back and read the bid book from January 2003 and read how unequivocally the city stated that it would be responsible for the athletes’ village. That was back when we were all being assured the city was not taking on any risk, in the heady days when no one could imagine you could lose money building condos in Vancouver

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  • T W

    More often than not, when designers start extolling the design superiority of a partially completed project, some bad news is waiting in the wings.

  • spartikus

    …some bad news is waiting in the wings.

    You mean, like this?

  • T W

    2 spartikus // Jan 9, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    …some bad news is waiting in the wings.

    You mean, like this?

    My guess is that the bad news is more dramatic than this. But it is only a guess.

  • VHB

    From one of the articles: “if the housing market stays in the tank for an extended period.”

    What’s with the ‘if’? Anyone who thinks the downturn is some shortlived or temporary ‘blip’ has been hanging out with Bob ‘downtown is different’ Rennie a bit too much.

    The unprecedented real estate run-up is being followed by an unprecedented real estate meltdown. Believe me now or believe me later, but the city, having made this deal with Millennium/Fortress, had better not rest its assumptions on a housing market that sees 2007 pricing anytime in the next 10 years.

  • Stephanie

    Remember that bit in the Empire Strikes Back when Darth Vader tells Lando Calrissian: “I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further”? The Olympics are like that. That we were going to get screwed was inevitable – the only question was what the details would look like.

    Bah. I’m going to watch the Advent of Sundin tonight and drown my cynicism in hockey spectacle.

  • spartikus

    Remember that bit in the Empire Strikes Back when Darth Vader tells Lando Calrissian: “I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further”?

    Remember that part in Return of the Jedi where Admiral Ackbar yells “It’s a trap”?

    Heh.

  • Yes, and the trap was sprung by the village idiots who voted Yes in the referendum. I had to keep from throwing up in my mouth when reading elsewhere that ‘we all have to get behind this project’. Screw that, I’m against it to the last penny.

    However, a breath later, I can say that I’m heartened to hear that White Elephant 2010 is designed along very positive principles of urban design. The idea of spaces built for pedestrian connection is classic Jane Jacobs, and the proofs are easily seen in our most walkable neighbourhoods.

    Despite the rape of Vancouver’s geography, treasury and culture by VANOC, it’s nice to know at least some part of this madness is tempered by good urban design.