The Urban Design Principles of the Main Alley Campus focus on improving the streetscape, laneways and public realm for the campus at Main Alley. The key principles include: activating the north-south laneway west of Main to encourage connections to the existing Mount Pleasant laneway network and beyond; bringing stickiness to the public realm through designing for human needs; creating incubator pods to foster new businesses and animate public space, conveying a cohesive visual identity for the Campus; and providing unplugged spaces where users are encouraged to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature.
Main Alley Campus
The campus will be comprised of social spaces that respond to building uses and provide opportunities for programming; activating the north-south laneway west of Main to connect to the existing Mount Pleasant neighbourhood lane network, proposed parks at 2nd and 7th Avenues, and neighbouring up and coming areas of innovation and business in the False Creek Flats and Gastown.
Networking and Collaboration Spine
The laneway of Main Alley provides an opportunity to re-imagine the purpose and character of this public right-of- way. Main Alley is intended to provide a linear urban plaza in the lane that will act as a catalyst for collaboration and social networking in real life. Main Alley will begin at 104 East 4th and extend to the south to connect with the rest of the Campus, while connections to the existing laneway network beyond the Campus are encouraged. The linear urban plaza along Main Alley will provide everyday and event programming opportunities while balancing the need for functional servicing in the laneway.
Urban design studies produced by Gehl Architects emphasize the need for public space to address the human dimension that take into consideration average human height, need for stimuli, and walking speed. Gehl’s studies identify the necessary criteria for successful “sticky” public spaces that invites activity and animates the public realm. The criteria for “stickiness” in the public realm centres around the protection, comfort and enjoyment for people using the space. For example, a change in the building frontage every 6m or 4 seconds to create a fine grained streetscape and laneway network that invites people to gather and linger. Gehl’s criteria for stickiness will be applied to the Campus through murals, small scale incubator pods, signage and street furnishings.
In order to activate and animate the public realm, small storefront incubator pods are introduced along the laneways. Incubator pods can be comprised of uses such as showrooms, tasting rooms, cafes, performance or pop up spaces that bring activities inside the building to street level or provide pop up space for new businesses. The inside/outside condition where the building interfaces with the public realm can be created through activated porous edges where double height sliding doors, large windows and garage doors open to spill out onto Main Alley.
A cohesive visual identity in the paving, signage, street furnishings, overhead treatments, and planting will help define the character of the Campus. An iconic paving pattern will define the variety of public spaces on campus. The playful pattern changes in scale and rhythm to define various types of public spaces from building entrance thresholds to patio space in the laneway. The planting palette consists of formal urban treed alleys on Main and Quebec Streets. While an informal, meandering west coast plant palette dominates 5th and 4th Avenues. Signage, street furnishings and overhead treatments will follow suit; these elements will be designed to convey the spirit of the Campus.
Unplugged places located at both street level and on podium and roof decks, allow people to disconnect with technology, reconnect socially and recharge in nature. Unplugged areas are densely planted, feature views to the city skyline, sunny spots and encourage lounging and lingering. Roof and podium decks are programmed as building amenity space with areas for seating, eating, recreation and gathering for events. The meandering plant pockets of lush native and adapted plants synonymous with the West Coast populate 4th and 5th Avenues creating an oasis for those seeking a nature fix.