If you're like me, then you've spent the better part of the past two weeks gathering the family around the kitchen table with hot glue guns and a big pile of cardboard and foam core brainstorming ideas and creating maquettes for the 800 block of Robson Street.
The portion of perfectly fine navigable roadway between the Vancouver Art Gallery and Arthur Erickson's famous Law Courts will be closed for yet another summer to accommodate a pedestrian-friendly and no-doubt whimsical expression of our collective hatred of the automobile and our commitment to sitting around drinking coffee and checking our phones.
The city has opened up the competition to everyone, if your definition of everyone happens to be, "those with expertise in architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, industrial design, and other related fields."
I may not have any of that so-called "expertise," but I do have some pretty darned good ideas when it comes to what Vancouverites might enjoy in the middle of a vital yet impassable downtown traffic and transit corridor.
Here are just a few of them.
Rhythm of the Street Public Drum Kit Project: It worked with a bunch of crappy out-of-tune pianos strewn across the city. Why not drum kits? That's right: Imagine the fun as you settle down on a stool behind one of 20 massive rock-and-roll drum kits welded to the ground to prevent theft. Tourists or locals enjoying their overpriced and tiny food-truck lunches will get to hear your best Keith Moon, Neal Peart or John Bonham. And the best part is, it's open around the clock. Bring your own sticks.
The Downtown Dump Compostable Waste Depot and Information Centre: No idea what to do with your melon rinds and chicken carcasses since Metro imposed its ban on compostable waste in landfills? Get some info and dump that stinking pile of rot at an easy one-stop location. Organic material will be collected throughout the summer to demonstrate the significance and sheer mass of kitchen scraps spared from the landfill. Using heavy equipment, artist Douglas Copeland will sculpt the putrid pile of waste into a bust of Gregor Robertson.
Designated Drone Zone: Let's face it, there's almost no place left in this city where you can fly a drone without being accused of peeping, interfering with air traffic, or harassing an off-leash dog. But with NavCan approval the airspace above the 800 block of Robson will be declared a drone-positive area. And if your drone does stray a bit, the worst it's going to catch on camera through a window is someone trying on a pair of $800 shoes or a Vancouver Art Gallery board member watching the telephone and waiting for a call from a major benefactor so they can please-God-please move out of this stupid building on the street that closes every summer.
The "Real World Internet Haters Project"
This is an installation that will transport social media hysteria and outrage into the real world in real time. Anonymous online commenters, gutless Twitter trolls, and truly loathsome Redditors will be able to approach anyone walking through the closed portion of road and scream their vile, uninformed and bigoted opinions into the faces of people they have never met and know nothing about. Victims will then be allowed to retire to a specially constructed "Outrage Zone" to discuss at length how offended they are
Asphalt and Stripes – a Public Study in Urbanism: This treatment would see the city repave the 800 block of Robson then, with the help of local artists and the co-operation of city engineering staff, paint orange or white traffic-control stripes down the centre of the road to indicate where passing or lane changes may be permitted, and where pedestrians may cross. On opening day, citizens could take part in this "living art" project by driving their cars down Robson Street between Howe and Hornby and continuing to their destinations. To further underscore the "public" aspect of this installation, public transit vehicles would also be permitted to use the roadway as part of their regular routes. Pedestrian access will be controlled with existing signals at both intersections. In the end, the street will end up looking and functioning exactly as it did preinstallation.
Stephen Quinn is the host of On the Coast on CBC Radio One, 88.1 FM and 690 AM in Vancouver.