URBAN PASTURE 2.0
In 2011, City of Vancouver initiated the parklet program to create pedestrian-friendly urban refuges. With this intent, the idea of converting on-street parking into miniature green spaces was born. This “park-for-park” movement began a peaceful insurgence against the dominance of cars by reclaiming road surface for human recreation. At the same time, it urged us to reconcile our coexistence with automobiles in a dense city. The outcome was a new type of public realm similar to a curbside extension in principle but uniquely designed and programmed for each location.
Robson Street provides a pointed case study because it is a highly populated street, yet under furnished – in particular its lack of seating. In response, Fountain Studio of Ark | FSOARK Architect Inc. created Urban Pasture in 2012 as a pilot project to test drive the idea in the downtown core, where vehicular and foot traffic seemed equally indispensable to retail and food businesses. Utilizing curbside parking stalls was, in some cases, the only viable option.
Seven years after its creation, Urban Pasture has well passed its intended service life and in need of a replacement. Due to the success of the original design, in early 2019, City of Vancouver reopened the dialogue with Robson Street Business Improvement Association and FSOARK. In the new version, FSOARK seeks to preserve those ideas already been proven successful, while exploring other untapped design potentials. These include modular construction, and a lighter, more transparent design that allows maximum permeability both viewing from the sidewalk and from across the street. Durability and ease of maintenance are drastically improved by the introduction of the galvanized steel platforms and bench substructure. A new sedum mix is added to the palette of native planting, reinforcing the original concept of a living oasis in the heart of the city.
Since its completion in August 2019, Urban Pasture 2.0 has become the largest parklet in City of Vancouver, featuring the longest curvilinear bench on Robson Street. The design draws inspirations from the ubiquitous park benches that are often long and sinuous along footpaths. What distinguishes Urban Pasture 2.0 from its peers is the uninterrupted seating facing the sidewalk, with no tables provided. This strategy is a reversal of conventional outdoor patio design, which is often regarded merely as an extension of private business premises, serving predominately restaurant or café patrons. The FSOARK team seeks to create a democratic, inclusive public space where personal respite and casual encounter can simultaneously occur.