Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Chicago: Frank Lloyd Wright 2

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So long, Frank Lloyd Wright
I can’t believe your song is gone so soon
I barely learned the tune
So soon, so soon

I’ll remember Frank Lloyd Wright
All of the nights we’d harmonize ’till dawn
I never laughed so long
So long, so long

Architects may come and architects may go
And never change your point of view
When I run dry
I stop awhile and think of you

Paul Simon’s lyrics

In order to get a picture of the house and studio I would have had to cross the road and find a way to frame a shot, which would be dominated by a giant ginko tree he planted. So this is not my picture but one taken from Google Streetsview

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The rest of the images are of the interior as we took the guided tour – the only way that visitors are allowed to see the house. The guide was brilliant: I strongly recommend you take the tour if you get the chance. (At the time of writing $18 for an adult, $15 for a senior. US dollars of course.)

The house is the first that followed the “open plan” layout that has now become common. Previously houses had many rooms all accessed by hallways. Wright made his home feel more spacious by eliminating or minimising circulation space.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

The inglenook in the reception room: note the carved inscriptions over the fireplace. He thought that drawing the curtains would create a nice warm, cosy place to sit. Over the years more advanced heating and cooling systems have replaced the role of the fireplace. This one is central to the house rather than in one of the outside walls. The chimney had to be cranked to get around the “window” to the dining room.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

The style of the dining room chairs seems to me reminiscent of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

Wright deplored the convention of filling a room with furniture: his built-in seats in the window alcoves were one of his many innovations.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

Skylight: the repeating geometric patterns are formed by natural shapes such as leaves.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

The window has a characteristic pattern incorporating coloured glass based on the prairie grasses that would have been visible when the house was built, when it was still in open country.

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

Wright also designed the light fittings

Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio

In order to reduce the intrusion into the large loft room, the grand piano is suspended over the staircase by a hook. Only the keyboard is visible in the room itself. He also bought a pianola-roll player, to play it for him.

You will note how small the stairway is: that is also reflected in hall which leads into the large upper room. “Compression and release” is a favourite theme of Wright’s layouts.

The next post will be of the studio.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 20, 2018 at 11:12 am

Posted in architecture

Chicago: Frank Lloyd Wright 1

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I took a lot of pictures on my recent trip to Chicago. You will be able to see more of them on flickr. I am going to try and assemble some of them into Blog Posts,  starting on our first full day in the region.

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Oak Park is a suburb of Chicago just north of the City Limits. It is where Frank Lloyd Wright built his home and studio, a number of large houses and a strikingly original church. We had booked a tour of the house and studio. Arriving early we were able to walk around the block where his house was built – and recognised his style in many of the houses.

Moore-Dugal Residence Oak Park

Completed in 1895, this was Wright’s first commission after he left Adler and Sullivan’s firm. The third and fourth floors were destroyed by fire in 1922. Wright immediately returned, redesigned and rebuilt the home.

Oak Park

Oak Park

Oak Park

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Oak Park

Oak Park

Oak Park

Oak Park

Hills-DeCaro House, Oak Park

“The Edward R. Hills House, also known as the Hills–DeCaro House, is a residence located at 313 Forest Avenue in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois. It is most notable for a 1906 remodel by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in his signature Prairie style. The Hills–DeCaro House represents the melding of two distinct phases in Wright’s career; it contains many elements of both the Prairie style and the designs with which Wright experimented throughout the 1890s. The house is listed as a contributing property to a federal historic district on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and is a local Oak Park Landmark.”

It is pretty easy I think to pick out the Wright houses in the selection above.

The next post will deal with Wright’s home and studio.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 19, 2018 at 10:53 am

Posted in architecture

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Vancouver Public Library: New Roof Garden

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We went downtown today to see the recently opened extension to the main public library. There is a new top floor with an large public space, currently hosting an exhibit about the changing city and above that a rooftop area that is mostly paved but with some planting (shown above).

I have also uploaded a set of photos to my flickr stream which I am linking to below

Vancouver Public Library

This poster is displayed in the main lobby. It is not meant to be taken literally.

Vancouver Public Library

As you can see it is not that hard to find your way around the new 9th floor.

There are two open patios on the 8th floor, also accessible from new exterior stairs as well as the internal escalators, elevators and stairs.

Vancouver Public Library

There is also a planted area that is not open to the public on the 9th floor as is the green roof above it.

Vancouver Public Library

The whole thing is all very nicely presented but I have to confess a feeling of being underwhelmed. The new space did get quite a lot of notice in the media, so I suppose I was expecting something more.

Vancouver Public Library

Vancouver Public Library

Vancouver Public Library

Movable tables and chairs are a very good idea. Maybe as the plantings grow and more people start to use the space, things will look better. No doubt sunshine will help but frankly the view is unimpressive. Not much of our glorious setting is visible from here – just the towers and the roof of the stadium

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Written by Stephen Rees

October 3, 2018 at 4:55 pm

Vancouver Election Candidates

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There are a lot of them. I picked my short list mostly based on party identification: Green, COPE and Vision plus a couple of independents. I did not expect the reaction that got on Twitter and Facebook.

Last night I had no light fiction reading to while away the small hours so I read the Vancouver Voters’ Guide which has the candidates’ statements and is the next best thing. We picked that up yesterday at the Community Centre. Apparently reading printed paper is supposed to be more soporific than a lighted screen. If you want to you can read the same stuff online – in fact if you are going to vote I think you probably should. There are lots to choose from and these profiles at least will help you narrow down your own list. The city has simply copied what they wrote – and some are barely literate. Others just spout their party’s line. One or two are well over the line – and a depressing number of mayoral and council candidates seem to have little understanding of what the City Council actually does. Parks and School Board candidates are generally better at that.

Only one failed to provide anything at all: Margaret Haugen, who is running for Park Board, and deserves no votes at all for her neglect. I would also warn against Jason Lamarche for Mayor who thinks control of illegal immigrants is a high priority, and Sophia Kaiser who needs to learn how to write. Here is a paragraph of her bio selected at random

AbsoluteObediencetoAbsoluteANATHEMAObedience: 153ArchonDemon-Indoctrinations PossessingMe/

Somehow she managed to get a much longer entry than anyone else. Most of it as incomprehensible as that quote. I cannot imagine a Council Meeting if she were to command the floor.

I would also suggest you make your list early and take it to one of the advance voting places (community centres or City Hall) to avoid the lineups that will bedevil election day.

I would also suggest you look at the very short entry for Ken Denike who thinks he is entitled to continue his reign at the School Board largely on his conviction that you will already know all about him. Of course if you vote NPA or BC Liberal you already do, so why are you reading this?

I voted

Written by Stephen Rees

October 2, 2018 at 10:50 am

Posted in politics, Vancouver

Short term rental

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This blog post is cobbled together from facebook postings prompted by recent events: I had been seeking assistance there but it turned out with a bit of luck and my very own Miss Marple we were able to track things down.

Context

Short term rentals have exploded everywhere. There have always been short terms lets for tourists – holiday cottages, flats and bed and breakfasts all offering furnished accomodation as a cheaper alternative to hotels and with more or less service. We have all (I suspect) used them. The internet changed how we booked them. We no longer buy a copy of a magazine like The Lady (which used to have lots of holiday lets in its small ads over the winter) we go to a website like Craigslist, or one of the growing number of specialists sites and apps of which airbnb maybe the best known but there are lots of others. In Vancouver, many advocates for increasing the supply of rental housing have been pointing to the explosion of these services as one of the reasons that rents are high and vacancy rates near zero. The revenue from these short term rentals is a lot higher than a long term tenancy.

The City of Vancouver “enacted a new bylaw that permits Vancouver residents to operate short-term rentals in their principal residence for stays of less than 30 days” starting April 19 this year. “Secondary suites can be operated as a short-term rental by an owner if it is their principal residence” but they need a business license.

A Series of Events

There are over 80 suites in our building and there has been a fairly high rate of turnover. We also see plenty of care aids coming to visit their clients.  We try to get to know our neighbours. We also have a common laundry.  There are of course rules about how these facilities are shared. There is a system of reservation of laundry times – and one of the things that has changed recently is the number of times people have been in the laundry having the machines explained to them. Whenever we ask who these people are they usually are said to be relatives of the owner. One or two owners seem to have a lot of visitors.

One day we met a very pleasant young man in the elevator going down to the laundry. We asked him when he had moved into the building and he explained that he was in a short term rental. He said he was only here for three days prior to going on a cruise to Alaska. Miss Marple observed him going into a newly renovated unit – one we had been into on an “open house” event. At that time it had its own, newly installed washer and dryer.

Every strata has bylaws. Bylaw 14 in ours is pretty straightforward

No strata lots may be rented or leased

It goes on to set out a few exceptions but none cover short term rentals or operating a bed and breakfast out of your suite.

 

We did a quick scan of the airbnb web page looking for something in our vicinity, but found nothing. Then a couple of days later, there was some undelivered mail on the shelf by our mailboxes. Two envelopes – both addressed to the suite in question and from Booking.com in Amsterdam. There was no name of the addressee but a company “Royal Crown” on one “Royal Crown & Suite” on the other. Miss Marple did a Google search and there it is – not on Booking.com but airbnb. I have taken screen shots, so let me know if that link doesn’t work in the comments, and I will add them here.

I looked at the information and saw what appeared to be a business licence number. The City has the data on business licenses available as spreadsheets you can search. I established that the number quoted referred to two people I do not know and an address of a suite on Howe Street.

So I used the VanConnect app to report what we had learned to the City. Apparently many people are disappointed with the lack of action by the City on this issue and there is also now a Twitter account that is increasing the pressure (hat tip to Sean Orr for that link). You can also go to this report an issue page on the City’s site.

I also joined up for airbnb and tried to send the owner of the unit a message. That wasn’t possible since there was not a single date I could book the unit. This seemed a bit odd to me, so I reported that to Airbnb Support.

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The response time “may vary” is a flat lie. They just don’t want to communicate any more with me. There is, of course, no other way to communicate with them. I have never used airbnb – and now I don’t think I ever will.

Action

I don’t expect the Strata Council or the Building Manager to act as though this were an emergency. I do think that it may offer us a way of increasing the strata revenue since the by law also identifies a fine

(b) if the rental continues beyond the provisions of the Residential Tenancy Act, levy a fine of $500 every 7 days of prolonged occupancy, such fine to be added to the monthly assessment of the owner;

Now I also think that we probably need to add some wording at this point to cover the short term issue. The fines are now much greater than $500 for seven days for non-compliant short term rentals. Just by looking at the 8 reviews for September alone on this one suite – and taking them at face value – there is some revenue due. The Property Manager seems a bit hung up on the Residential Tenancy bit so we may need a General Meeting to resolve that.

The City could fine the owner $1,000 a day for as long he stays in business: the bogus business license should act as a trigger. Hopefully we will hear a bit more in due course and if we do I will update this post.

There is also the really useful Condominium Home Owners’ Association of BC. They have a number of bulletins on short term rentals – these are pdf documents to download listed here: look in the index under “rentals” for “short term rentals”.

By the way, since I joined airbnb I have now submitted a complaint using their online form, and got this response

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The City has now responded to my complaint using the VanConnect app: the status is “In Progress”. The City has also responded to my partner – just acknowledging receipt of the complaint. The building manager says that he has spoken to the owner. However, the listing is still on airbnb complete with the bogus business license number. (Last checked October 11, 2018)

 

 

 

Written by Stephen Rees

September 29, 2018 at 12:19 pm

Posted in housing, Vancouver

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Book Review

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This review has been removed.

The representative of the PR firm pushing the publicity campaign for its publication  has a different view of the meaning of “Fair Use” which, if followed, would have made this review incoherent. I am not willing to do that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Stephen Rees

September 27, 2018 at 1:23 pm

Vancouver Election 2018

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The City has now produced its randomly ordered ballot for the upcoming election.

Given the size of the ballot I realised I would need something written to take into the voting place with me, where the names of the progressive candidates I would like to see elected would be in the same order as the ballot paper. I tweeted these out as three messages but I am also going to put all three lists here, for ease of reference.

Already someone has responded that their list is different – well d’uh! – they want to see OneCity folks. Sure if you want to produce your own list don’t let me stop you. I worked mine out on the basis of Green Party (of course) then Vision and COPE then independents that I have been impressed by. Of course your preferences and methodology for selection may be different from mine.

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Written by Stephen Rees

September 23, 2018 at 10:55 am

Posted in politics, Vancouver

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