October 12, 2014
It wasn’t Gehl himself, but someone dressed in black from his consultancy firm, hired by the developer. They stood on the street and studied the block-long lane way, shaded by overgrown Caragana and French lilacs. I remember thinking that I was pleased the bearded Irises, that bordered the north-side of the lane, were in bloom. At the community association meeting when his name was first mentioned, I could not quite believe it. But there they were four days later. Could this little stretch of pot-holed lane in a city known for its passionate embrace of large and/or powerful vehicles, become a canvas for an urban project inspired by Gehl?
A few years earlier, for a number of different reasons, I had begun reading as much as I could on complex interlinked issues and concepts such as affordable housing, densification, walkability, new urbanism, etc. Gehl’s name appeared in many of the documents I was reading. His influence in the real world, not just in theory was visible in many urban spaces.
Gehl acknowledged the influence of Jane Jacobs and her iconic 1961 publication The Death and Life of Great American Cities in his work. He cautioned that although “everyone” has read the book its lessons were not learned very quickly or widely(Hill 2014).
Jane Jacobs (1961) had critiqued the Post WWII urban rationalist modernist planning policy which drove urban renewal projects that separated city areas based upon usage-commercial, industrial and residential (Flint 2009). She focused specifically on Robert Moses and other city planners like him who favoured cars over people.
“Moses] was responsible for 13 bridges, 2 tunnels, 637 miles of highways, 658 playgrounds, 10 giant public swimming pools, 17 state parks and dozens of new or renovated city parks (Flint 2009 cited in Garner 2009).”
It was very personal. In the 1930’s when Jacobs moved from Pennsylvania to New York she chose to live in Greenwich Village, a neighbourhood which at that time had,
“storefronts with awnings shading cluttered sidewalks, kids chasing one another in front of a grocery, delivery trucks stopping and starting their way up the street.” Although the midtown skyscrapers and the cluster of financial district tall buildings were visible from Greenwich, most of the Greenwich buildings were simple, two or three stories-high with a few with five or six stories (Flint 2009).
“Everywhere she looked she saw people-people talking to one another, it seemed, every few feet, casually dressed women window-shopping, old men with hands clasped on canes sitting on the benches in a triangular park. Everyone looked, she thought, the way she felt: unpretentious genuine, living their lives. This was home (Flint 2009).”
In his book entitled Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York’s Master Builder, former Boston Globe journalist, Anthony Flint (2009:4) described how Jacobs defied Moses over three huge public works projects Moses had attempted to impose on Manhattan and won:
- a four-lane highway through the middle of Washington Square Park
- an urban renewal project that would raze 14 blocks in the heart of Greenwich Village
- the proposed construction of Lower Manhattan Expressway, a 10-lane elevated superhighway, that would have gone through SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown and the Lower East Side.
In this YouTube video, “Intelligent Cities: Jan Gehl on the Neighborhood” by National Building Museum, Gehl described his vision.
As they perused the lane way I was already enjoying infusions of rose petals, stevia and cat mint from the garden on the other side of the lane way of the lot, the proposed site of 24 luxury condos. I had thought of offering them some but mentally calculated how much such a consultancy cost an hour or a minute. Months later with architectural drawings in place, the reality of the construction taking over the sun-filled empty lot noisy with gossipy house sparrows, magpies and squirrels, sinks in little by little.
It’s not quite a blank canvas…
- Caro, Robert. 1974. The Power Broker.A biography of Moses.
- Chaldekas, Cynthia. 16 March 2010. “Review of Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City.
- Garner, Dwight. 4 August 2009. “When David Fought Goliath in Washington Square Park.” Books of the Times. The New York Times.”
- A review of Flint’s 2009 publication
- Gehl, Jan. Intelligent Cities: Jan Gehl on the Neighborhood National Building Museum.
- Hill, David. 25 January 2014. “Interview: Jan Gehl on London, streets, cycling and creating cities for people.” The Guardian.
- Jacobs, Jane. 1961. The Death and Life of Great American Cities.
- Flint, Anthony. 2009. Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York’s Master Builder. Random House.
Opening night of the Morpheus Theatre’s The Pirates of Penzance was a rollicking success. Gilbert & Sullivan‘s popular and timeless two act comic opera The Pirates of Penzance directed by Tim Elliott and Mike Johnson, is playing at Pumphouse’s Victor Mitchell Theatre from April 18 to May 3, 2014.
The merry gang of pirates invading the secluded Cornwall beaches are not quite what they seem. The soft-hearted, ill-adjusted ship’s crew faces a series of identity crises with unflagging optimism. With riotous scenes of sword-fighting and dance, the musical romp is fun-filled tomfoolery. Morpheus’ high-spirited cast with a mixture of seasoned and novice actors, played their likeable characters with gusto, warmth and energy.
Winnifred (Win) Hume as the sweet, beguiling and determined Mabel, made a sensational entrance with an elaborate and florid trilling in the famous challenging aria “Poor Wandering One.” Win played Mabel in 2008 where she met her future-husband who then played Frederic. Unger and Hume’s impressive performances were lively and cheerful, soulful and sweet.
Carey Unger played the role of the hero, Frederic, the twenty-one-year-old, lovesick but duty-bound pirate apprentice. As he leaves the Heist and his pirate life behind him, he becomes committed to eliminating piracy and convinces a not-too courageous band of police to help. Misunderstandings twist through the plot and he learns that he was never meant to be a pirate but a pilot, an error of pronunciation. Then he learns his 21st birthday will not be celebrated until 1941, not in 1879.
With his strong baritone voice that filled the theatre, James Noonan (Hobson 2014) played the swashbuckling- if sometimes conflicted- Pirate King with bravado.
It was obvious that baritone Allen Crowley enjoyed playing Major General Stanley. Personally, one of the highlights of the evening- which included the entire cast with a strong choral back-up, agile choreography with great comedic timing- was kilt-wearing Crowley’s martial march-hop as he triumphantly and skilfully interpreted the famous fast-paced, tongue-twisting Modern Major-General’s Song. When forced at sword point to continue singing, the Major General “improvised” with Crowley’s own made-in-Canada contemporary pattering parody to the delight of the Pumphouse audience.
In 1879 The Pirates of Penzance‘s world premiere was presented in the Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York.
The Morpheus Theatre repeats The Pirates of Penzance every six years, which began with their sold-out November 1996 season performances, followed by productions in April 2002, in March/April 2008 and currently in April/May 2014.
While in Italy on the family’s Grand Tour, the very young Gilbert was kidnapped for several hours then safely returned to his family (Eggold vi). He claimed to remember some of this event and it emerged as themes of identity crisis, children switched at birth and topsy-turvy sagas of duty and love in The Pirates of Penzance and Topsyturveydom (which Morpheus will present in 2015).
Spoiler: In the happy-ever-after ending the noble background of the orphaned pirates is revealed. Queen Victoria makes an entrance and they all become members of the House of Lords, suitable husbands for the daughters of the Major General.
Gilbert, W. S., Sullivan, Arthur. 1879. The Pirates of Penzance or The Slave of Duty.
Eggold, Marie. The Pirates of Penzance.” in The Pirates of Penzance or The Slave of Duty (Vocal Score). Treharne, Bryceson (Editor). Schirmer, G. pages x=xiii. ISBN:9780793525867
Eggold, Marie. “The Gilbert & Sullivan Partnership.” in The Pirates of Penzance or The Slave of Duty (Vocal Score). 1986. Treharne, Bryceson (Editor). Schirmer, G. The Pirates of Penzance or The Slave of Duty (Vocal Score). Schirmer, G. Editor. pages vi – ix.
Hobson, Louis. 13 April 2014. “Rollicking dream role for James Noonan in Morpheus’ Pirates of Penzance.” Calgary Sun Calgary, Alberta
July 24, 2013
In process: Google spreadsheet commodity market terms
Updating to new Google spreadsheets
July 18, 2013
January 8, 2013
The National Gallery of Canada gradually became morphed into my memory palace, a mnemonic device where social histories began to reveal themselves as one perspective merged into another. Renaissance perspective was too linear, too Hegelian for the way in which I wanted to revisit communal memories. I began to see the gallery spaces through an Escherian perspective where each art work opened into a panorama, a vista of social histories.