Sir Nicholas Grimshaw

From Wikipeida, Photo by Bidgee

Melbourne's Southern Cross Station - designed by Sir Nicholas Grimshaw (From Wikipeida, Photo by Bidgee)

Dwell Magazine, October 2008

As I was enjoying some tea in a tea lounge, I grabbed a copy of Dwell Magazine and stumbled across this interview of Sir Nicholas Grimshaw.  Honestly, I had no idea who he was, but I was interested in what he had to say.

One of the good things about doing decent public design in a prominent place is that people look at it and say: Why can’t we have that everywhere?

I thought that was a very good quote.  We can say the same thing anywhere we live in the world.  For those of us who have travelled abroad, we often have the same thought: Why can’t we have that everywhere?

Taking, for example, the hundreds of New York City bus shelters which were erected in 2006, how do you approach designing for the public realm?

There’s absolutely no reason why every-thing you look at in the street shouldn’t be worth looking at. There’s no need to throw anything away. When you’re doing 1,000 bus shelters, whether each one costs $2,000 or $2,020 doesn’t matter. The common factor should be that they’re designed with quality and can be repaired and looked after. It’s a classic problem—you can see things damaged after a week.

I think Vancouver has done fairly well with respect to the bus shelter.  They are sleek and clean and have the name of stop labelled in the middle.  Now only if those lights would work.  The City of Vancouver has also recently installed large newspaper boxes to consolidate all the various newspaper boxes dotting busy streets. It certainly cleans up the sidewalk, although we lose the colourfulness of the different boxes now.

There is little in the way of recycling on the streets of some cities. If you think of the amount being generated every day, maybe legal control of recycling would make a huge difference. This leads you straight back to our discussion of street furniture because if a street is packed out with bins it’s not a very pleasant place to be, but…

Part of the challenge is designing a beautiful garbage can?

Yeah, and making people feel it’s sensible to stick a can in one bin and a newspaper in another. It’s design psychology: You can make bins big enough and the right shape so they’re easy to use with the lids open. In teeming cities with little public wealth, it might be appropriate to concentrate on providing large recycling containers so that people cannot remove them.

However, I think we’ve done fairly poorly in the realm of the garbage can.  I praised Halifax for their 3-bin system and pointed to Toronto’s 3-bin system as well.  Vancouver needs something like that.  I just saw one of our typical garbage cans along Broadway.  Somebody didn’t close the back properly and the inner can was dangling out along with all these newspapers stuck into the can/bottle recycling section.  If Vancouver is serious about better waste management, we need the more substantial bins with the ability to sort the recycling from the paper from the garbage from the organics.


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