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Gene Miller

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Focus Magazine Nov/Dec 2016

Sept/Oct 2016.2

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Everything posted by Gene Miller

  1. Photo: First Church of Christ, Scientist in Victoria Messages from the beyond (and architecture), at the top of Harris Green. Go to story...
  2. Messages from the beyond (and architecture), at the top of Harris Green. I HAD A HORRIBLE SLEEP last week and spent the whole night dreaming contemporary architecture: a hellscape of raw concrete, metal, glass. Manicured carpets of lawn patrolled by concrete edging. Rectangles of trapped water. Not a smidge of sexy ornamentation or decorative relief. Not a curlicue. No architectural whimsy, nothing stray, no accidents. Caprice banished to other neighbourhoods. Proof, again, of grotesque results when cold-lit rationality is permitted to argue for hope, and also an oblique architectu
  3. Image: Artist's rendering of a development proposal in Vancouver designed by the British architecture firm Heatherwick Studio. As the cold-faced high-rises multiply around the city centre, we are opening the door to alienation and disruption. Go to story
  4. As the cold-faced high-rises multiply around the city centre, we are opening the door to alienation and disruption. If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow… Why oh why can’t I? I’M LOSING TRACK OF HISTORY, but didn’t we, back in the dim past, 20 years ago, look forward to a soon-arriving age when all work would be done by smart machines and robots, liberating humanity from drudgery and tedium? Yes, “liberated” was the word, and I’m trying to remember what, freed from labour, we imagined we were going to do every day, all day long. Think great t
  5. Photo: One of several new residential highrises under construction in Victoria's downtown area. The tower trash on Downtown’s east and north shoulders adds urgency to understanding the relationship between community values and urban design. Go to story
  6. The tower trash on Downtown’s east and north shoulders adds urgency to understanding the relationship between community values and urban design. I RECENTLY SAW A SWEATSHIRT for sale bearing the message: “I’m not arguing. I’m explaining why I’m right.” Considering the prevailing political weather south of us, the durable social chaos surrounding the US presidential transition, and the now-deep-stirring threats to American democracy, such graffiti seems overly polite. Wade Davis, in a penetrating August, 2020 Rolling Stone essay, wrote: “Fluidity of memory and a capacity to forg
  7. Posted January 10, 2021 Image: High Point Community Church in Victoria West Why don’t we still make communities and cities that give us a feeling of identity and heart’s ease? Go to story
  8. Why don’t we still make communities and cities that give us a feeling of identity and heart’s ease? “BALANCE IN ALL THINGS” we say, wisely. The embrace of such wisdom makes us hopeful, and even near-certain, like well-behaved children, that God, always conning for signs of decency and right thought, is taking note, keeping score. And while we’re here, compare the expressive calm of the Latin equilibrium with buh-heavy balance—buh, as in but, bother, bellow, the double-b bomb and, in spite of beauty and bliss, sounding less like balance itself and more like forces grimly tethe
  9. Posted December 20, 2020 Image: An artist's rendering of the Starlight proposal for Harris Green. Starlight Developments' mega-plan for a block in Harris Green suggests we’re not all in this together. Go to story
  10. Starlight Developments' mega-plan for a block in Harris Green suggests we’re not all in this together. An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man. —Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance JOIN ME: we’re going on a tunnelled journey deep into a corporate psyche; probably, actually, the psyche—the structure and joinery of ideas and values—of an individual corporate executive, since it seems so often to come down to that. But I promise, when we emerge, you will recognize that the whole time it has been a rollercoaster ride around your own sensibilities and values—
  11. Posted November 12, 2020 Can the social messaging inherent in Victoria’s buildings help us render current reality legible in these destabilized times? Go to story
  12. Can the social messaging inherent in Victoria’s buildings help us render current reality legible in these destabilized times? A note to readers of this column: Founding Editor of Focus, Leslie Campbell (you old-timers will remember that Focus began its life as a “women’s magazine” titled Ironing And Brats), has invited me to centre my future contributions generally on urban design and architecture themes, noting that the recorded readership levels of my recent “meaning of life” columns suggest that nobody reads that shit. This, of course, is not true. I know for a fact th
  13. Posted October 15, 2020 Image: Tourists boat by scrap metal pile on Victoria's Selkirk Waters. The project of civic renewal needs us to bring our many gifts to the table—and set an example for the world. Go to story
  14. The project of civic renewal needs us to bring our many gifts to the table—and set an example for the world. SWOONING. Do people still swoon? Informative and very entertaining liner notes with a CD of Charles-Valentin Alkan’s piano music comment that “by the mid-1830’s, Alkan had taken up residence in Paris’s fashionable Square d’Orleans, with the younger Dumas, the ballerina Taglioni, and later, Chopin and George Sand as neighbours,” and friend of the admiring Liszt “whose pianistic style in concerts was capped with such histrionic gestures as swooning at the pia
  15. Posted August 19, 2020 Photo: Park visitors discuss the tents in Beacon Hill Park The vast resources invested in Victoria’s homeless—without apparent success—provide incentive and the means to fashion a new narrative about this city. Go to story
  16. The vast resources invested in Victoria’s homeless—without apparent success—provide incentive and the means to fashion a new narrative about this city. All these beauties will already be familiar to the visitor, who has seen them also in other cities. But the special quality of this city for the man who arrives there on a September evening, when the days are growing shorter, is that he feels envy toward those who now believe they have once before lived an evening identical to this and who think they were happy, that time. —Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities I BEGIN WITH THI
  17. Posted August 11, 2020 Image: Bay Centre Food Court in September 2019, before the pandemic arrived. It’s only when normal takes a holiday that we get an intuitive glimpse of the vast, unseen social and environmental forces that sustain normal. Go to story
  18. It’s only when normal takes a holiday that we get an intuitive glimpse of the vast, unseen social and environmental forces that sustain normal. THANK GOD, things are getting back to normal! You remember normal, don’t you? You can see signs of its return all around: more people on the streets, more shops with “open” signs, more job-resumed rush hour traffic. Why, the way things are going, it shouldn’t be too long before you’re back complaining about how nothing exciting or out of the ordinary ever happens here. But below that, closer to the bone, how to explain the feeling
  19. June 30, 2020 The ideas embedded in our civic architecture say a lot about the state of our civic citizenship. WITH INCREASING FREQUENCY THESE DAYS, I start watching a movie online or crack open a book only to be prodded, ten minutes or ten pages in, by the realization that it’s the second time around: I’ve seen it or read it before. “Huh, will you think of that!” I say to myself and then walk into the bathroom to make myself a sandwich. But enough about you. The occasional mutter from readers reaches me about how this column is so negative and pessimistic, and how I
  20. May 28, 2020 View Towers illustrates how civic inattention can lead to unintended consequences. VIEW TOWERS. It sat there, like a spaceship in a cow pasture, between Quadra and Vancouver, Fort and View Streets, a 19-storey heartbreaker silently announcing to everyone who walked or drove by: “Beauty is tricksome and fleeting, and Death awaits thee.” A description in the Islandist states: “The building, completed in 1968, has been locally notorious for much of its 50 year existence, having been the site of several murders, suicides, fatal overdoses, destructive fires, count
  21. May 13, 2020 The Jawls provide us with examples of how buildings can reflect and build a rational, respectful social vision. I HAVE THIS WAKING FANTASY…Mayor Lisa Helps, just after the start of her first term, back in 2014, is invited by UDI, the property developers’ organization, to be the luncheon speaker. Understandably, the membership wants to get a sense of the priorities, policy directions and “body English” of this new mayor. There are about a 140 attendees, seated at round tables, munching rubber chicken. Finally, lunch eaten and announcements announced, it’s show
  22. March 2020 Scenes of homelessness challenge any illusion that our city is well-ordered—and call for a new blueprint for community. I DON’T WANT TO BREAK A SWEAT attempting to conflate hope and home, but it’s hard not to notice that they share three-quarters of their architecture. I know: you’re sorely tempted to note, so do hole, hone, hose and hove. Remember when you had that stupid idea to create dinner-flavoured ice cream (I recall you said pork chops and Brussels sprouts would “go monster”)? I kept my mouth clamped shut, even when everybody suggested you might,
  23. July 2019 Parsing the promo material for a new development near the Esquimalt Lagoon. HERE'S A RULE OF THUMB: when, or wherever, you see the word “nestled” in real estate advertising copy, make the sign of the cross and run at top speed in the other direction. You need nestling? Go to your partner, or the park, to your therapist, guru or support group, your pet corgi; hell, your pet rock. I urge this in behalf of the last remnant shred of authentic human emotion. That was emotion, not emoticon. The torn genius employed by Rennie Marketing—a Vancouver-based company engaged
  24. March 2019 Will new Downtown buildings help our resiliency and community in the face of social upheaval? LEONARD BERNSTEIN ANNOUNCED his retirement from conducting on October 9, 1990, and five days later died of a heart attack at his Manhattan apartment in The Dakota. At his funeral procession through the streets of Manhattan, construction workers removed their hats and waved, calling out “Goodbye, Lenny.” A city family big enough to have heroes and small enough to weep at their passing. A place, not an anywhere. Cities, communities of people, need identity and are bound
  25. January 2019 Downtown has 1000s of new units, yet it feels unwelcoming to many. MCDONALD'S, OPEN 24/7 at the corner of Douglas and View Streets, is an overnight hellhole and theatre of the absurd. If you can put the prefix dys in front of almost any hapless adjective, or un as in -hinged, -housed, -healthy, -happy, it describes the street-side atmosphere around the place. Really, you should visit some Friday or Saturday around 3am. It screams “major tourist attraction.” It struck me, south-bound on Douglas after a suburban mall run (the Devil never runs out of seductions)
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