I Have Missed Writing

We left for Portugal on January 31st. I have only published twice since then. But, I have been busy. We spent four weeks in Nazaré, the World’s surfing capital. Yes, this is the place that surfers go to catch the 100-foot waves. And then, two weeks in Vienna. I did take time to enjoy my winter break but I was working several hours a day, mostly on a project designed to find a way to fund green projects in the urban environment. We had our workshop on March 28 at Massey College, Toronto. And then, the ice “event” in Montreal had us on a nomadic search for a hot shower. So, not a lot of time to blog and I have missed writing. I hope you have missed me.

Over the next few weeks

I will pick up my series on cities. I have started the section on affordable housing – a complex but not unsolvable problem. There will be new articles on this topic but I will probably insert some posts on Third Places in between these articles. Maybe there will be a little bit more on Portugal and on our time in Vienna. And, of course, the occasional item on a restaurant I may think you should enjoy! Or, perhaps avoid! Or about something I really like or dislike.

However, I am going to avoid politics. There will be no question about my views on certain topics but the cupboard is bare when it comes to politicians and political parties. This is true, almost everywhere in the world and particularly so in Canada.

In the meantime, some random items:

  • Cafe Fenster, Vienna – The best coffee ever comes from this little hole in the wall. A full-milk cappuccino served in a waffle cone. Why doesn’t it leak? The cone is lined with a very thick layer of high quality chocolate.
Coffee at Fenster – unbelievably good!
  • Miyawaki Forests – not every urban park needs to be big. Small can be beautiful. Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki developed the concept which entails planting native tree species in high density. The result – fully matured treed areas in less than 20 years. Quick to establish, maintenance free after a year or two, a Miyawaki forest can be grown on a plot as small as three square metres. And so good for bio-diversity, shrinking heat islands, these green gems can be planted anywhere. Hey – rip up part of your lawn!
  • I hate graffiti! Grow trees and vines to cover it up.
  • Why would anyone think that a heritage property makes good affordable housing or homes for the chronically homeless? These properties will house fewer people, cost a LOT MORE to make livable, and cost more to maintain. That does not mean that I think heritage properties should be demolished – boutique office space perhaps?
  • People don’t want to return to the office? Then why do shared work places seem to be more and more popular?
  • Restrictive dancing laws in ABBA-land? Bar owners in Sweden can get fined if there is spontaneous dancing to Dancing Queen (or any other tune) – if they don’t have a permit. It now seems that the government will undo that law so soon no one will get busted for busting a move.
  • Have you had an extreme weather event this year? How resilient was your physical infrastructure? Our electrical distribution system in Montréal collapsed under the weight of freezing rain. Grow trees, please, but not under power lines and look after them. Trees in populated areas need care to be safe.
  • Are you really going to have a manicured lawn this summer? Grow native wildflowers and clover instead. More drought resistance, better water absorbency, and good for bio-diversity.

And some old reminders:

  • Buy better, buy less
  • Reduce, repair, reuse and recycle (courtesy of Patagonia)
  • Shop local, support local businesses, buy from local farms, and support local artisans and manufacturers

And really, I have missed writing.

The Affordable Housing Conundrum

October 3, 2023

Before I fall completely into the trap of opposition politics, I have decided to take a break from never-ending criticism and to start suggesting solutions to the affordable housing conundrum. Do I have a plan? No, more a collection of ideas To start with, I think there are three key issues: Home ownership is not […]

We Should Know Better

August 26, 2023

I know! I am going to sound like a grumpy old man. Maybe that is because I am. I have been scratching my head in wonderment at the Taylor Swift phenomena. Is she an Incredible song writer, composer, and performer? I really don’t know! A discussion for another time? But probably not. At my age […]

Not in My Back Yard

August 4, 2023

Don’t build it! At least, Not In My Back Yard ! I acted as an advisor  in the sale of a beautifully natural, 14-acre urban waterfront estate. Existing zoning allowed for the development of 30 to 35 single-family homes, which after road dedication would leave very little green space. I did not think that was […]

Glasgow – That Dear Green Place

July 31, 2023

We were visiting Glasgow (literally that Dear Green Place in Gaelic) to see where my father was born, grew up, and went to University. Fortunately for me, my cousin John from Australia had just visited and had met with historians, Bruce Downie  and Norry Wilson.  So,  we too arranged to meet them in the Govanhill […]

Vienna on Top Again

June 25, 2023

Vienna on top again. This week both Monocle Magazine and The Economist unveiled their quality of life / most liveable city indexes. There are differences in the way each publication sets its index. So it is even more impressive that once again, Vienna tops both lists. I am a bit lazy today so rather than […]

Large interior courtyards

From Hot Bedding to Superblocks

June 20, 2023

Many Viennese went from hot bedding to superblocks overnight. Could they even imagine  an apartment complex 1000 metres long built along two streets with even more massive landscaped courtyards? Could they conceive of 1400 apartment units built to house 5000 people on 56,000 square metres or 38 acres of land.  Or a vertical build-out that […]