Incredibly poor design – what did we win that UNESCO award for anyways?

BIXI parking across Phillips' Square - work of the auhor, May 19th 2011

Many thanks to Isabelle and Nelson for reminding me of this God forsaken travesty of urban design.

So apparently BIXI and the City agree that Phillips’ Square is an ideal location for a high concentration of docks. Last year, I remember seeing docks doubled up along the eastern edge of the Square, and on occasion, a large quantity of bikes kept in reserve for a daily rush. Clearly, the demand from this particular point was fairly high. That being said, this year I discovered the solution to such high demand – the construction of a ‘dock-barrier’ which cuts the Square in two parts, as you can see above.

Aside from dividing the space, this set-up provides an obstacle for anyone wishing to cross through the Square – which is what it’s designed to facilitate. Moreover, there are still parking spaces along the edge of the Square which could be easily converted to spaces for docks. In fact, based on my observations last night, they’d probably be able to fit about twice as many bikes by using those spaces as opposed to running one long dock across the Square.

Another problem – the vendors along St-Catherine’s are further isolated from existing traffic patterns. I spoke with some of them a while ago – they we’re incredulous at how silly this arrangement is, and how anyone in City Hall could have approved of the decision.

This space deserves better.

***

Update!

This space does in fact deserve better – and it got better.

Having recently moved into the neighbourhood I was eager to see whether the city had in fact removed the offending bike racks. Turns out that yes, indeed, they were permanently removed.

Getting the opportunity to pass through the urban square with some regularity, I can say that it seems to be very well used. It is an unlikely meeting place for very small protests and demonstration, such as the ultra-orthodox Chasidim protesting the existence of Israel to the Kurds protesting joint Turko-American suppression of the Kurds. It’s always lively and seems to be a preferred location for bums and retailers alike to take their lunch breaks, and frames the buildings surrounding the square. It is often well photographed by passing tourists who touch the foot of King Edward VII, rubbing it as if for luck. Others just drop their jaw to a publicly-acceptable degree of awe. I doubt too many people know anything about the guy, but fuck if it isn’t a neat statue, read whichever way you like.

What I find curious is how the vendor kiosks are lined up facing Ste-Catherine’s, essentially forming a continuance of sorts to the store fronts along the rest of the street. If they were redistributed across the square, optimally with a kiosk at each of the corners, they might prevent the weird pedestrian bottleneck that happens along the edge of the square on Ste-Catherine’s.

Further – has anyone else noticed that despite all the docks, there are frequently times in which there isn’t a single bike at the entirety of the square? And not even at peak hours either – quite bizarre.

In any event, if you have never visited Phillips Square I highly recommend taking a little walk from McGill or Square-Victoria Métro stations and seeing the sites. There’s plenty to do, but if you prefer photography to shopping then I highly recommend bringing your camera. There’s plenty to see and watch throughout the day, and the square provides interesting vantage points on Christ Church Cathedral, the Birks and New Birks buildings, the Bay, the Canada Cement Building and what’s left of the neighbourhood once known as Little Dublin. Enjoy the terraces along the eastern side of the square while they’re up, or if you’re feeling mighty posh and have some coin burning a hole in your pocket, try the Café Birks and let me know what you think.

2 thoughts on “Incredibly poor design – what did we win that UNESCO award for anyways?”

  1. Hi –

    Like two weeks after I posted it, the City had come by and completely re-arranged it, and now the bike docks are occupying former parking spaces.

    I breathed a sigh of relief, no joke.

  2. That’s one of the more ridiculous things I have ever seen here – want to talk about failed communication between public space and the city? Someone gets paid from tax money to approve things like this.
    (going to repost this assuming you may not mind?)

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