All things environmental

Musings about the environment and all it touches, from education to city planning

A secret garden? a good design, at least

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There’s a new building project in a neighbourhood that I particularly like for its urban character, the north Commercial Street area.

The very large hof (inner courtyard) from the kitchen window of the apartment of our friend Stephan in Hamburg

The very large hof (inner courtyard) from the kitchen window of the apartment of our friend Stephan in Hamburg

It’s a low rise development, four stories, with 48 apartments. What caught my eye, though, is its selling feature: what they call a “secret garden”. In other words, the building is wrapped around an inner courtyard. Not exactly revolutionary; most apartment blocks in Germany, for instance, are built this way around a hof, or inner yard. This is where kids play safely away from traffic; it’s also a bit less noisy, and there are the obvious “eyes on the street” dear to Jane Jacobs (except that the eyes here are also on the courtyard).

The design of the new building (called Mercer by Cressey) appears to accommodate a fair bit of greenery in the yard, which is all good. It’s not the originality of the design that I welcome; rather, it’s the fact that this old-fashioned European approach is making inroads here. And, again, such features increase livability of an urban area, and that’s why I like them.

Of course, the developer announces “boutique apartments”, with one and two bedroom suites priced between mid $300 and $400. I suppose that is what passes as reasonable prices in Vancouver, though this isn’t how the affordability crisis will get solved. Also, I deplore the fact that energy efficiency is nowhere mentioned in the advertising blurb or the website – that ought to be commonplace! (Marquee, a new building on Commercial at 7th avenue, and another nice addition, featured energy conservation in its marketing, which should be done everywhere; home buyers should factor in their future energy costs in their decisions.)

But I’ll settle for the inner courtyard, even with its pretentious “secret garden” name. It’s a good design, and I’d like to see more of it. A good addition to the neighbourhood.

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Written by enviropaul

November 11, 2014 at 7:24 pm

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