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SOMERSET : CHINATOWN Projects from the Workshop in Urban Studies/ Heritage Conservation Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism/ Carleton University, Ottawa Fall 2009

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SOMERSET : CHINATOWN Projects from the Workshop in Urban Studies/ Heritage Conservation Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism/ Carleton University, Ottawa Fall 2009


CONTENT/ PEOPLE

01. FOREWORD, 02. DOMINICAN GARDEN PARK, 03. NOT JUST AN ENTERTAINMENT : CINEMA/PERFORMANCE SPACE, 04. SIGNS AND ICONS, 05. COMPLEMENTING THE GATEWAY 06. SONGLINES/REVEALING CHINATOWN’S UNBUILT HERITAGE, 07. GHOST ARCHITECTURE, 08. INCREASING CUSTOMER TRAFFIC, 09. EVENTFUL STREETSCAPE/STOREFRONT AS GATEWAY TO THE EVENT, 10. ANIMATIONTHROUGH YOUTH PARTICIPATION, 11. STREETSCAPES: RE-IMAGINING SOMERSET CHINATOWN, 12. “THERE’S A FIRE EVERY 3 MINUTES AROUND HERE”, 13. SOMERSET STREET STOREFRONTS Corey Brown, Amanda Conforti, Craig Gillier, Shelagh Hill, Lisa Jones, Adam Khamphoune, Dominika Linowska, Louis Liu, Katelyn Lucas, Shea MacDougall, Simon Mok, Evan Mullen, Anna Preiss, Christian Rutherford, Nevil Wood, Jeremy Van Dyke, Jordan Yerbury, Anita Yu Professor Jim Mountain

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Short term

The placement of entrances to the stores and residential units above correspond to the street front; – to emphasize this correlation, paint doors one colour, further the repair of the mill work to further resist weathering.

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Removal of green carpet (615). Power washing of existing concrete beneath, maintain safety of footing at doorway. Removal of recessed awnings - refurbish and remobilize; remove chicken wire. (609) corner display window, to rent out for advertisement; highlight the corner – Percy and Somerset – as a business opportunity within existing building. Advocate design of store front with its original integrity, angled store front remains as enticement, allude to original usage and prominence, architectural style – art deco Analyze venting system of entire block at street level. Original design kept and refurbished, highlighted in cleaning and repair of outer plate.

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01. FOREWORD Prof. Jim Mountain

This “workshop” style course has for the past three Fall Terms, and again in 2009, been working with, (or perhaps, more aptly stated adopted by) the Chinatown Ottawa neighbourhood. A key objective of the course has been to examine, and learn principles of urban planning, urban design and conservation of “heritage” in the context of a changing street environment. Chinatown in Ottawa currently extends along Somerset Street from Rochester, to Percy in Ottawa’s Somerset Ward. The neighbourhood is rich in history, and in independent, unique businesses which reflect a strong cultural diversity. Like many urban places, Ottawa’s Chinatown is undergoing constant change The street has seen businesses change hands. Some have been dramatically, and tragically lost to fire. In 2009 eighteen participants in the course formed a multi-disciplinary planning and design team. Our “client” was the Chinatown Ottawa Business Improvement Association. (BIA). We went off -campus, and through visits to the street, and considerable discussion and analysis, looked closely at social, economic, and physical environment issues relevant to Chinatown. The team members identified a number of projects intended to stimulate thought and discussion in Chinatown either for the street as a whole to consider, or to address the needs of individual businesses or property owners. Some of the issues included : - Sustaining, celebrating the cultural diversity of Chinatown - Signage and storefront facades - Green space, public space access - Iconography - gateway imagery - Security and lighting - Conservation and enhancement of existing architecture - Cleanliness – the street, properties, and backstreet spaces - Interpretation of culture and history as a basis for marketing Chinatown - Parking, traffic, cycling - Mix of housing, and commercial

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Acknowledgements are extended to : Grace Xin, Executive Director, and the Board, and membership Chinatown Ottawa BIA, City of Ottawa’s Stuart Lazear, Coordinator, Heritage Services, Prof. Herb Stovel Carleton University School of Canadian Studies, François Leblanc, former Chief Architect, National Capital Commission, Sheryl Boyle, Acting Director, Azrieli School of Architecture, Dennis Luc, Proprietor, Mekong Restaurant, all previous course participants in the Carleton U, Urban Studies/Heritage Conservation course who contributed to the Ottawa Chinatown and whose worked informed the 2009 projects. The following report proudly illustrates the combined work of the 2009 class.


02. DOMINICAN GARDEN PARK Shelagh Hill Katelyn Lucas

Parks in Urban Centers The urban parks movement originated in the late 19th century as “a reaction to the ills and evils of the industrial city.”1 The park was a “green lung”2 to refresh city dwellers from their urban environment. The surge of park building occurred in response to the City Beautiful Movement and the park design philosophy of Frederick Law Olmsted, known for the planning of Central Park in New York City (1853-56) and Mount Royal Park in Montreal (1874). Olmstead firmly believed that being close to nature could heal urbanites from the “ill effects of urban life.” Small urban parks, known as “vest-pocket parks,”3 in North American cities are seen as an extension of the parks movement. They are small sites or vacant lots, typically with grass and a park bench. Green Acre Park in New York City is an example of this type of park. The intent of the design was to “provide New Yorkers with “some moments of serenity in this busy world.”4 Its main feature is a 25-foot-high waterfall, but it also has moveable seating and tables, shade from trees and a cafe. Safety The issue of safety often affects the development of parks in certain urban areas. In the case of GreenAcre “the regulars who use it make a significant contribution to the safety of the Park.” Nathan Hoedeman also addresses the importance of using parks regularly to establish public ownership and deter “disorderly behaviour” in his article “Backyard Beat” featured in the November 13th (2009) issue of The Centretown Buzz.

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The Garden The Dominican Garden has been called a “hidden gem”5 in Ottawa Chinatown, a name befitting the site as it really is hidden from the main street. Though the stone walls surrounding the Garden may incite curiosity, the Garden still reads as a private area. Situated between Lorne and Empress Avenues, just north of Somerset Street West, the Dominican Garden is currently owned and maintained by Dominican University College. In 2008, the property was put up for sale for $2.2 million. The community in general fears that the land will be sold to a condo developer, threatening the loss of this invaluable greenspace and nearly 40 species of native trees.6 In November 2008, a petition was presented to the City of Ottawa’s parks and recreation advisory committee expressing the concerns of the residents where it was well received.7 It should also be noted that as it is Somerset Ward “falls well below the City of Ottawa’s official plan of four hectares of park and leisure for every 1000 residents,”8 therefore making the Dominican Garden an invaluable asset to the community. Currently Somerset Ward has only 0.21 hectares of park land for 1000 residents”9 , that is only 5% of the City’s projected plan. The possible development of the property will only take the City even further away from this green goal. Continuation of the Dominican Gateway Project The ideas set forth in this project are an elaboration of a previous proposal for the Dominican Gateway (2008). The Gateway project proposed the creation of an urban garden adjacent to the Dalhousie Community Centre that will link the Dominican Garden to Somerset Street. Phase 2 of the design shows this thru-way (with a new stair from Somerset Street) equipped with benches and trees for shade, the framework for a movie screen, and a flexible open space for a weekend market. By facilitating a link from Somerset Street to the Garden the park will become more visually accessible to residents. Considering its location in the geographical heart of Chinatown, the Dominican Garden Park will provide an additional central venue for cultural festivals such as FestivAsia and Chinese New Year celebrations, as well as other festivities, including, but not limited to, Winterlude, Canada Day and Chinatown Remixed, a celebration of art.


Spring Summer Autumn

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FestivAsia : Rent bandstand for entertainment, lantern festival / Chinatown Remixed : Sculptures by artists, this could include a competition for the design of new gates, encouraging the arts and culture sensibility that Ottawa Chinatown is aiming for / Canada Day : Rent bandstand, barbeque area at pergola / Film or Music Festivals


Winter

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Winterlude : Build ice rink, ice sculptures / Chinese New Year : Rent bandstand, lantern festival, cultural installations


Parc Dominican Garden Park Still privately owned, the Dominican Gardens currently functions like a park, and as such little changes are necessary to facilitate its conversion to a public space. A two-phased approach to develop the park space into a venue for cultural events will provide the community with a period of time to generate ideas other than those illustrated in this document, and also to organize funds for larger venue necessities.

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Phase 1 A short-term and economically viable stage. The few rudimentary tasks comprised in this phase will enable the immediate usage of the Park and prepare the Park for long-term usage. In addition to an initial site clean up and pruning, the running path will be completed. The current pathway exists along the south and east extents of the Garden. By completing the pathway on the two remaining sides, walkers and joggers will be inclined to use it. Likely the most important step under phase one is to repair the stair the west entry gate. Currently, the stones that used to make up the steps have been piled and set aside. This is not just a housekeeping concern, reinstating this gate will once again provide access to and from Lorne Avenue, and facilitate the use of the Park for a pleasant shortcut of a daily stroll. The incorporation of outdoor furniture will offer a place to sit and relax under the shady trees, read a book, meditate, or play a game of cards or chess. The style of furniture will dissuade wayfarers from spending the night. During this phase the Park can still host some events, such as a Chinese Lantern festival and Winterlude activities. Phase 2 This phase considers the long-term requirements for the Park as a festival venue. The suggestions outlined in this phase can be implemented over the course of several months or years, as funding and community involvement permits. Phase two begins with the planting of new trees around the main gathering space, along the north and south parts of the running path. This will provide additional shading, especially for larger events. A new entrance from Empress Avenue is suggested in the north-east corner of the Park. At this time, the design and construction of new retractable fence at the Dominican Gateway entrance to the south and new hinged gates for the new Empress Avenue entrance will be completed. This is an opportunity to commission a local artist for the gate design (much like what was done in the Byward Market next to the Highlander Pub) or to propose a design competition for the commission. This will reflect and promote Ottawa Chinatown’s interest in becoming a hub for arts and culture. Also in this phase, a pergola, a semi-covered pavilion-like structure, will be built atop a concrete or stone pad. In addition to providing a little extra shade and a place to rest or enjoy a snack, the pergola will offer a location to set up a barbeque-like space for large events. This will occur at the same time as the installation of infrastructure and services (electric power, lighting) for large


events. In this proposal, washroom facilities and a snack-bar type establishment have not been considered for fear that it would take away from the “secret garden” feel of the Park. Endnotes 1 Saccoccio. “Urban Parks: Green acres can make a city the place to be.” CBC News. 2 ibid. 3 Von Baeyer. “Parks, City” The Canadian Encyclopedia. 4 Project for Public Spaces. “GreenAcre Park.” 5 Tourangeau. The Dominican Gateway. 4. 6 Reid. “Treeplanting addresses lack of greenspace.” Centretown News. 7 Ramakrishnan. “Downtown park still in limbo.” Centretown News. 8 ibid. 9 ibid.

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References “GreenAcre Park.” Great Public Spaces. Project for Public Spaces, Inc. 2009. Web. 7 December 2009. <http://www.pps.org/great_public_spaces/one?public_place_id=70> Hoedeman, Nathan. “Taking ownership of public spaces.” The Centretown Buzz. Vol. 14, No. 11. (13 November 2009) 13. Kabagambe, Ignatius. “800-name park petition presented to city.” Centretown News. 3 December 2008. “Ottawa college puts rare green space up for sale.” CBC News. 21 August 2008. Ramakrishnan, Saumya. “Downtown park still in limbo.” Centretown News. 05 February 2009. Reid, Alexandra. “Tree planting addresses lack of greenspace.” Centretown News. 5 November 2008. Saccoccio, Sabrina. “Urban Parks: Green acres can make a city the place to be.” CBC News. 5 July 2007. Web. 5 December 2009. <http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/parks/urban-parks.html>. “Suburbs shouldn’t get park money from downtown condos: councillor.” CBC News. 22 August 2008. Web. 3 November 2008. <http://www.cbc.ca/canada/ottawa/story/2008/08/21/ot-parks-080821.html> Tourangeau, Terry. “The Dominican Gateway.” ARCU 5402 Student Report. Carleton University. (Ottawa: T. Tourangeau, 2008) Von Baeyer, Edwinna. “Parks, City.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. 2009 Historica Foundation of Canada. Web. \7 December 2009.


Option 1 Option 2 Existing Condition


03. NOT JUST AN ENTERTAINMENT : CINEMA / PERFORMANCE SPACE Anita Yu

The City of Ottawa is now taking a serious action for the development planning in Chinatown. As the heart for Chinese community in Ottawa, Chinatown symbolizes the roots and presence of Chinese community. The increased new development (especially housing) in Chinatown, the use made of some of these new areas, and the takeover and maintenance of traditional or more recent buildings, is evidence of the strength of the Chinese presence in the neighbourhood. The mix of low-rise commercial and residential nature of the buildings in Somerset Chinatown area becomes important and unique feature in Ottawa. The increased new development (especially housing) in Chinatown, the expansion of the area, and the use made of as well as the takeover of some new and old buildings at the surrounding areas, shows Chinese population’s attachment to this area. However, lack of entertainment and attractions has become a critical issue for Somerset Chinatown in Ottawa. With restaurants dominating the current Chinatown, the need of an unique landmark is urgent to distinguish Chinatown from other areas in Ottawa. The success in revitalizing Chinatown on Somerset Street could make Ottawa a global dynamic city that embrace diversity, culture and openness and plan to meet people’s real needs. Key issues Ottawa’s Chinatown has many businesses that sell basic goods, services, arts, cultural or tourism-related products. The neighbourhood has experienced many challenges over the years, including community conflicts, global economic hardships, shifting population trends, and the decline of nearby areas. However there is lack of identity in the area. There is a need to expand and diversify the retail base and define Chinatown as significant cultural and heritage hub in Ottawa. Solution As a model for Ottawa’s Chinatown revitalization, City of Vancouver has worked closely with the community to “enhance Chinatown’s cultural identity through heritage preservation, building cultural landmarks, arts and cultural programming, forming partnerships with education institutions and youth engagement.”1 Although the Chinatown economy continues to be small enterprises, it is important to work with the local business community to ensure a healthy mix of services to deliver a dynamic Chinatown experience for local residents and visitors. Other than the entrance gateway, adding more some cultural landmarks in Ottawa’s Chinatown will enhance the social and cultural values into the neighbourhood.

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Case Study : Vancouver In 2009, the City of Vancouver and members of the Chinatown community are nominating Vancouver’s Chinatown as a National Historic Site of Canada. Its Chinatown has always been an “important commercial and cultural destination for local residents, as well as regional and international tourists.”2 With its embedded rich cultural value, Vancouver’s Chinatown is described as one of the “original ethno-cultural communities in Vancouver, epitomizing the core value of cultural diversity in contemporary Canadian society.” 3 As a long term goal, City of Ottawa should aim to revitalize Chinatown on Somerset Street to become a National Historic Site of Canada. This approach is positive impacts to the city socially, culturally, and economically. As a result of being more culturally global community, more opportunities for tourism and business will be created, and bring a renewed sense of pride to the community. The Chinatown in Ottawa should adopted ideas from Vancouver such as promoting Chinatown Night Market. This event is one of Vancouver’s summer highlights which is styled after Asian marketplaces where shopping is personal, local. The night market events help to bring more revenue to the vendors from local community and small business. Case Study : Montréal Montréal has successfully developed a resolutely contemporary dynamic culture that shines on both the local and international scenes making Montréal Québec’s leading cultural destination. Summer and winter alike, lovers of festivals, theatre, cinema, music and science can choose among a


multitude of activities. Considering Montréal as a model, Ottawa has great advantage to become a city with rich cultures. Montréal hosts several international film festivals, including the World Film Festival and the Festival du Nouveau cinema. Other than enhancing the culture and vitality into the city, the participation of many small cinemas helps bringing more revenue to the city and increase employment. Cinema Project Similar to Montreal, Ottawa’s Chinatown is also rich with culture and history and has played a key role in the shaping of Ottawa cultural identity. The goal is to bring vitality into Chinatown on Somerset Street and preserve Chinatown’s unique heritage. The proposed Cinema is not only a place for entertainment, but it also act as an unique cultural landmark for international film, cultural diversity and a platform that raises national and international awareness for heritage Chinatown and the city of Ottawa. Chinatown is not the only Chinese community in the region. Although there are numerous festivals in Chinese culture, such as Chinese New Year, the Lantern Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, etc., it also acts as a platform for multicultural activities. The proposed project also provides performance space to accommodate other cultural festivals not only specific to Chinese culture. More varieties of festivals (i.e. Music festivals) will attract different kinds of performers and spectators, (local, regional, international) to come to Ottawa from around the world every year as a result to help the economical revitalization in the city. The cinema in Chinatown promotes the Chinese cultures and multicultural diversity in Canada and also reconnects different age groups and generations. Other than festivals, the cinema can associate with any annual community events, night markets, performances, parades throughout the year. 801 - 819 Somerset Street The chosen site is located at the part where Somerset Street has gone through many transformations which create a mixed and eclectic appearance for the area. The site is in a community with lots of movements and activities. The fire destroyed about “30 apartments, a pizzeria, a pool hall, and Asian and Caribbean grocery stores.”4 Due to the massive fire in 2007, the site is now a vacant parking lot. The proposed site is in a dialogue with that rest of the city the cinema aims to provide a place for entertainment as well as a gathering place for the community. It reflects how the street’s aging and eclectic mix of vernacular commercial architecture, older apartment blocks and re-purposed homes have evolved and been changed by the people who use it. The cinema is social and cultural enhancement for Chinatown which serves as a destination for the visitors from around the world.

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Location There is a need to improve the physical design and function exist, including enhancing the architectural design of box-style buildings; enhancing the pedestrian environment both within development sites and along public streets; increasing the amounts of landscaping in order to mitigate environmental and visual impact of parking areas; designing in a manner that contributes to the public realm, the character of the street and surrounding neighbourhoods. The cinema due to its excellent location can become the node of Chinatown on Somerset Street. Since it is closed to the Vietnamese Boat People Museum (Preston and Somerset) and close to Dominican Gardens, it provides great connection during any public events or festival, both outdoor and indoor activities and adjacent street function. The cinema will provide opportunities to enhance and add visual and cultural interest to the streetscape. It creates and enhances the idea of “people and places” for gathering and socializing. The 3-storey high building causes a huge void in the intersection of Booth Street and Somerset Street. At the same intersection, it is where the delineation starts on Booth Street, which might cause optical confusion for drivers driving along Somerset Street. The mass of proposed cinema can become the anchor of the corner which helps aligning Somerset Street, providing visual interest to the people who are either driving or walking. A successful city or community rely on social, and community dynamics, and contemporary development issues. The purpose of the cinema is not only for entertainment but it also acts as a cultural landmark and an important node which brings in vitality to Chinatown in Ottawa. It will become one of the attractions or


destination for people to visit in Chinatown or city of Ottawa. Topographically, the proposed site is at the highest elevation on Somerset Street. The presence of proposed building will benefit from the great exposure to the neighbourhood. To maintain the appearance of street façade and restore similar mass as the previous destroyed building, the cinema will remain as 3 storeys high. The proposed cinema in Option 1 with a café/restaurant on the top level will have privilege of providing great views of city of Ottawa. The building is inspired by the idea of a Chinese lantern. Since the operation of the cinema runs from day until night time, the glass facade will allow the building to illuminate and become the lantern in the community. The facade of proposed cinema in Option 2 is inspired by the motif on screen door. The design of facade is a reminiscence of ancient temple in China. The design of perforated facade plays an important role to portray the idea of inside and outside. During the day, the interior is illuminated by the sunlight from the outside. The building becomes dynamic as different shadows are casted by the perforated facade depending on different time of day. Similar to Caixaforum in Madrid, the perforated facade not only provides a screening effect for excessive sun light, but its casted shadows also give visitors a visual sensational experience. Street Furniture In conjunction with the cinema in Chinatown, Street elements/furniture can definitely enrich the cultural characteristics of Chinatown for the local and visitors. Importing similar elements from Beijing, China not only beautifies the walkway and streetscape on Somerset Street, it also creates an interesting dialogue between the Chinatown in Ottawa and its origin (China). Conclusion To make Chinatown in Ottawa more competitive, both locally and internationally, there is a need of revitalization which includes designing with consideration for the future adaptability and intensification of the site. Cultural organizations play a pivotal role in the history and cultural identity of the Chinatown community. The proposed cinema serves to replace the previous mass that have been long-serving pillars of the burnt down by fire. It is an attempt to redefine the cultural identity, historic roots and revitalized future of Chinatown. Different activities might evolve over the course of history, but the presences of proposed and existing buildings continue to help define and enhance Chinatown’s unique cultural identity.

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Footnotes 1 “City of Vancouver - Chinatown Revitalization Program - Cultural Development.” Home - City of Vancouver. Web. 10 Dec. 2009. <http://vancouver.ca/commsvcs/planning/chinatown/program/cultural.htm> 2 City of Vancouver. Economical revitalization http://vancouver.ca/commsvcs/planning/chinatown/program/ economic.htm 3 Chinatown NHS Fact Sheet. Date created: February 2009. Date visited Dec 10, 2009. <http://vancouver.ca/ commsvcs/planning/chinatown/pdfs/ChinatownNHS_FactSheet.pdf> 4 CBC News - Ottawa - 31 left homeless by huge fire in Ottawa’s Chinatown.” CBC.ca - Canadian News Sports Entertainment Kids Docs Radio TV. Web. 09 Dec. 2009. <http://www.cbc.ca/canada/ottawa/story/2007/08/16/ot-somerset-fire-070816.html>.


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04. SIGNS AND ICONS Simon Mok Louis Yi Liu

Ottawa Chinatown is an unique place, with its distinct heritage and amazing mix of cultural identities. Though it is special, its recognition is far from its potential. This is due to many factors that are affecting the community, ranging from building upkeep to store window display. In this report, the focus is placed on the (potential) signs and icons found along Somerset St., by introducing a more effective way to use the element to better bring out the potential of Ottawa Chinatown. The existing signs in Chinatown are signs in their most basic form: displaying the name of the store and what the store is for. Another proposed option is by using 3D signs. They offer a more dynamic quality to the store fronts. These iconic signs communicate more effectively than textual signs because they are straight-forward and direct in bringing out the messages; therefore, audiences can understand them with less comprehension. 3d signs attract more attention due to their visual monumental appearances. In a bigger picture, these signs serve as landmarks and tourist attractions. A good example would be the Dotonbori crab restaurant in Osaka, Japan. The restaurant is well known for the monumental crab sculpture that is fixed on its store front. It is quite clear that crab meat is served in the restaurant by looking at the giant crab. Every year, this simple sculpture brings million of tourists from within and outside the country to Osaka. This not only benefits the store itself, but also brings businesses to nearby stores. The crab is not only a representation of a unit but the entire Osaka region.

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Proposal 1 An overhang was added to blank space above the signs, covering the exposed part of the wall, creating shelter, and attracting pedestrians to the stores. Proposal 2 In this case, the signs are almost ineffective in attracting attention, or even allowing customers to find a specific store. In order to solve this problem, a free standing sign (like that of a shopping plaza) is introduced. However, the design is done to reflect the theme of Chinatown. Proposal 3 There are many potentials of enriching the atmosphere of Chinatown starting with recomposing and modifying signs on the streets. One of the most effective approaches we propose is through the employment of neon light signs that are commonly found in many Asian markets (with references back to Hong Kong and Japanese street signs). Doing so, it adds a strong Asian flavor as well as giving more energy to the overall image. These street signs extend perpendicular to the store fronts and face pedestrians traveling the side walks. This arrangement allows them to catch more attention and become more easily read. The way they occupy spaces makes the place more dynamic compare to what is now an open void. These neon light signs not only fulfill their basic purposes in daytime, but also decorate the streets with bright glowing texts at night. They create effective changes without major modifications of the building structures that could possibly harm the heritage of the site; also, they are very economical and easy to install.

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We donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want to just build a gate, we want to improve the look of Chinatown.


05. COMPLEMENTING THE GATEWAY Evan Mullen Jordan Yerbury

History of the Area Given the present welcoming atmosphere in Chinatown, it is unfortunate to realize that the story leading to the establishment of the Chinese community in Ottawa is so unpleasant. That story begins with the completion CPR railway; a project that exploited a despondent Chinese minority in search of a better life in Canada during the late 1800s. At that time, a fifty-dollar-per-Chinese-immigrant tax was created, and this racist gesture was a reflection of the overall Canadian sentiment at the time. Other unfair laws in certain provinces also helped create a situation of fear and prejudice on the part of the Canadians during a time when Chinese immigrants were already having a difficult time integrating. The situation worsened before the nineteen-forties, but after the Second World War the anti-Chinese sentimentality began to wane. China’s affiliation with the Allies and the notable enlistment of Chinese Canadians in the army helped improve China’s reputation. Soon after, the laws were changed and the head-tax lifted. A new sense of optimism followed and Chinese communities began to become established throughout Canada. Ottawa’s Chinatown may have started to develop an identity when an incentive to attract business and culture was implemented, a series of entry rules that required newcomers to possess a substantial minimum capital. In addition to these new laws, the Canadian government required Chinese business people to invest in high-risk ventures. The resulting wave of culture, industry and art from China, led to the eventual establishment of a charming and distinctive Chinatown in Ottawa.

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Key Characteristics of the Architecture The people who live and work in Chinatown give the place its spirit, but the built environment that houses activities is a manifestation of that spirit. The architecture in Ottawa’s Chinatown helps us to understand the history of the place and where it is headed. It borrows elements of Canadian building techniques, traditional Chinese ornamentation and Art Deco appliqué. Firstly, the platformframe building method with brick cladding, wood double-hung or bay windows, and modest cornices are all elements which are characteristics of Ottawa. The Chinese ornamentation is apparent on details such as signage, handrails, staircases, entryways, and furniture. This ornamentation is sometimes combined with the Art Deco style that was popular in Europe during the middle of the century and remained in fashion in Canada well into the 1960s. Art Deco is expressed in instances where coloured glass, called Vitrolite or Carrerra glass, is used above the shop facades of some store fronts and restaurants. Marble and patterned tiles are also associated with the Art Deco aesthetic. Yangtze restaurant, with its geometrically patterned glass, marble panels and, is an excellent example of the combination of traditional Chinese ornamentation and the Art Deco style seen in Canada.

A Sense of Place Despite the distinctive history of the people and architecture in Ottawa’s Chinatown, contemporary issues regarding identity and integration may still stand in the way of this borough achieving a true sense of self-actualization. As a microcosm within a country that is dealing with concerns regarding a sense of place in the world, there are numerous problems to address. With so many complicated matters to negotiate, it is refreshing to witness the Ottawa Chinatown BIA’s implication in making a tangible change to the streetscape. Their contribution towards building a gate at the corner of Somerset near Bronson may be what is needed to establish a sense of place. The point of building an iconic architectural edifice is not necessarily a means to discover or maintain a sense of place; it is also a useful landmark, a meeting gathering place and a link to other Chinatowns throughout Canada and the rest of the world. The proposed gateway will frame the entrance and visitors will become more aware of their surroundings upon passing beneath the green eaves.


An Emphasis on Tradition A Chinatown gateway is quickly and easily recognized because of the traditional ornamentation, symmetry, colours and composition but there may be an important element missing. A gate that only showcases traditional ideas might not be as effective as one that incorporates contemporary concepts- an approach that could help to support the current trajectory towards defining a sense of place and identity. A strictly traditional gate ignores the industry, art, technology and cosmopolitanism that has captured the attention of the West. There is a risk of missing a chance of creating something that could have a greater social impact than simply showcasing what was important in the past. 3 proposed phases of development. Gradually taking over parking spaces in favour of green park land. Phase One (2010) The first phase of development leaves the parking lot completely intact. The rocks currently occupying this corner site are removed in favour of sculpture work that can be used as a path, seating, or low walls to block the wind. Evergreens are planted behind the path, separating the parking lot from the street and beginning the transition into a future park. Phase Two (2015) The next phase takes up half the existing parking lot. Access to the lot from Somerset is cut off and parked cars are no longer visible from the area immediately surrounding the gateway. The trees planted in Phase One have grown and semi-mature conifers are added in behind, shaping pathways.

Phase Three (2025) In the final phase of this urban renewal proposal the park is completed. Several pathways lead to a central open courtyard, an excellent place to hold small community events. With more and more interest in environmental concerns, transportation has been shifting away from cars to public transit, walking and bicycle use. By the time this park is complete, a

parking lot in this area will not likely be needed and the community will see much more benefit from public green space.


Complementing the Gate The traditional gate design could be highlighted by integrating it with a carefully tailored immediate landscape. A garden of manicured evergreens and thought provoking seating would be a refreshing complement to the traditional gate. A complete transformation of the site from parking lot to garden makes sense for this site. Evergreen trees are especially appropriate since the garden can still serve as a meeting place during the winter. Building a gateway will create a landmark in Ottawa and give Chinatown a defined entrance point. The use of contemporary sculpture and addition of green space can work with the gate, giving people a place to spend time outdoors nearby and contribute to the identity of the neighbourhood: clean, safe, friendly and a destination within the city.

References Chinatown: An illustrated history of the Chinese Communities of Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax (Paperback) Lorimer (Oct 19 2005) City of Ottawa: http://www.ottawa.ca/calendar/ottawa/citycouncil/occ/2007/06-27/csedc/ACS2007-PTEEC0-0006.htm West Side Action: http://westsideaction.blogspot.com/2009/08/chinatown-arch-unveiled.html Ottawa Chinatown: http://www.ottawachinatown.ca/ Ottawa Citizen: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/ottawa/Chinatown+Gateway+reality+next+summ er/1882476/story.html

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“I have really enjoyed watching how the street’s aging and eclectic mix of vernacular commercial architecture, older apartment blocks and re-purposed homes have evolved and been changed by the people who use it. There is an unstructured and chaotic aspect to this street and I believe that this organic nature keeps it contemporary and relevant to the communities who use it. Although this project visually emphasizes the buildings, people appear in many of the images. These people [...] have left marks and traces everywhere I look. The people and the street need each other.” justinwonnacottsomerset.com


06. SONGLINES / REVEALING CHINATOWN'S UNBUILT HERITAGE Amanda Conforti

A building's significance is measured by more than its brick and mortar. Often times it is the intangible attributes that can add value and give a building its character. In fact, the very language we use when speaking of historically significant buildings (or of any building for that matter) begins to suggest something beyond the physical. When we describe the 'character', or the 'spirit' of a building, we transcend the material and cross the threshold into the personal. In his introduction to the book Architectural Voices: Listening to Old Buildings, David Littlefield intimates that buildings are "psychological entities - projections even. They are expressions of ideas, skeletons on which we hang notions self, society, status, heritage, value."1 In her essay "Of All We Survey", Carolyn Butterworth talks about conventional site surveys and the information they afford the architect. Using photographs, drawings, and physical and historical recorded data, the architect builds a file of information about the site in question, which certainly becomes invaluable information during the design process. This information is indeed pertinent in the context of any project, especially in the context of any heritage conservation endeavors. However, as Butterworth argues in her essay, the conventional site survey "is not able, nor is it intended, to record the temporal, the personal, and the poetic."2 It is these ephemeral qualities of a site that are invaluable in understanding a building's heritage value. Because the people who occupy a building are the ones affecting any changes on its materiality, it can be said that every building has a story, that looks "behind, beneath, and within [its] fabric in search for what makes these constructions come alive."3 This project aims to collect, consolidate, and communicate the personal histories of Ottawa Chinatown, as witnessed by its many longtime business owners and building inhabitants.

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Why Songlines? A songline is an Australian Aborigine custom that employs oral traditions of singing, storytelling, and rhythm, as mechanisms for navigation. Intricate series of song cycles are used to identify landmarks, each having its own unique vector and direction. The Aborigine people believe that all land is scared and alive, and that their ancestors dwell in that same land. The songlines must be performed in order to keep their ancestors' memory alive.4 In other words, through the telling and re-telling of the stories of their ancestors, the Aborigine history is preserved. Similarly, storytelling can be used as a strategy to keep the rich and diverse history of Somerset alive in the years to come, and as I will propose later on, these stories may be used almost as a kind of navigation system through Ottawa Chinatown. As longtime business owners prepare to retire, or as businesses are sold, the personal narratives embedded in the buildings of Somerset Street West run the risk of being lost completely. Don Kwan, whose Shanghai Restaurant has been in the family for two generations now, points out that the family-run business is now a dying breed, which further underlining the importance in extracting, documenting, and sharing the stories of Somerset business owners and building occupants.

Method As a first step in beginning to record the personal narrative, or "Songline", of Somerset, I focused on recording the stories of two buildings - the Dalhousie Community Centre, located at 755 Somerset Street West, and the Professional Barber Shop, located at 617 Somerset Street West. After both of these visits, it became clear that these buildings are more than just physical spaces allotted for particular programs and functions - they are places, places which hold memories, places which have witnessed the progression of time and the evolution of the street. In many instances, the imprints, so to speak, of the buildings' inhabitants are present in its very walls.


755 Somerset Street West The Dalhousie Community Centre is home to many programs and services, including the Door Youth Centre, located on the second floor of the building. The Door is modeled as an afterschool drop in centre for youth which aims to provide information, homework assistance, and job skills to young people. As the Door’s executive director Malik Ayass explains, the goal is for kids to want to come to the centre, and not feel like they have to. By incorporating recreation and socialization along with education in its programming, the participants do not feel like it is a “prison”. The aforementioned skills and information can then be imparted upon the youth through these social programs, which include Girls’ Nights, Karaoke events, and nightly dinners, to name a few. A framed collage of photos from a number of these events hangs on one of the centre’s main walls, and serves as a souvenir of the memories that were formed at the centre within the past year. The centre’s recent acquisition of a 100 year old piano, donated by local real estate agent Tracy Arnett, incited the creation of a brand new music room, which was formerly located in a tiny alcove. Guitar and piano lessons are offered by volunteer music instructors, and are very popular among the youth participants. Upon entering the centre’s games room, one sees both a ping pong and air hockey table. This is also a popular spot where the youth gather and spend much of their time. All of the artwork that decorates the room was done by the program’s participants. The hallway leading up to the games room displays the preliminary sketches produced for an on-street mural project. The facility has also re-appropriated a number of small spaces and corridors for the purpose of job and resume resource centres, ESL instruction and homework help areas, and sexual health and education information centres. The impact that the Door’s youth participants have on the quality of the place is visible in every corner of the facility - From the artwork hanging on the walls, to the dishes from the previous evening’s dinner drying in the kitchen. Even on an early Wednesday afternoon when the centre is empty, there is an almost-tangible sense of anticipation for the some 30 kids who will arrive in a few short hours. The echo of their laughter and chatter is almost audible. 617 Somerset Street West The Professional Barber Shop has been in business for 49 years. It was purchased in 1961 by brothers Giovanni and Francesco Maiorino, and was formerly Rony’s Barber Shop. Over the last half century, Giovanni, along with his brother, have been first-hand witnesses to the evolution of Ottawa’s Chinatown. Giovanni says of today’s Somerset/Chinatown, that it is an ecclectic and multicultural neighbourhood, which is what gives it its vibrance and charm. He’s never considered moving locations, and welcomes every client, new and old.

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Giovanni also recalls that when he first opened the Professional Barber Shop, the area was predominantly populated by Italian immigrants. Beginning in the early 1980s, the Italian community began to migrate from Centretown to Ottawa West. Many of the area’s residential and commercial properties that were owned by Italians at the time, were sold to the arriving Asian immigrants, thus setting the development of Ottawa Chinatown in motion. This affiliation between Chinatown and the Italian community is present in cities other than Ottawa as well. Giovanni speaks of a recent trip to San Francisco, where he visited (what looked like) an Italian grocery store. When he entered the store, he realized that it was in fact and Asian grocery, and he asked the clerk why the sign outside the shop was Italian. The clerk explained that the shop had recently been bought from an Italian owner, and that they decided to leave the original sign to attract a larger variety of customers. Prior to purchasing Rony’s Barber Shop, Giovanni owned Rideau Barber Shop in downtown Ottawa for four years. At this location, the majority of his clients were French, and he quickly learned the basics of the language, outlining the importance of connecting with your clientele. Since he first opened the Professional Barber Shop on Somerset, Giovanni has had many loyal customers, some of whom have been clients since he owned his shop on Rideau Street (Giovanni tells of one customer who has been a regular client for 54 years now). Over the years these customers have become like members of his family, and Giovanni would even make trips to clients’ homes on occasion to cut their hair if they could not make it into the shop, or if they were feeling under the weather. As he


moves into his 50th year in business, Giovanni points out that his clients are also aging. He recalls a time when three customers (or “friends”, as he refers to them) all passed away within the same week. As with the Door Youth Centre, the memories shaped at the barber shop are commemorated with various photographs and plaques displayed along the shop’s perimeter. The Professional Barber Shop is rooted in tradition, and many of its original features and built-in furniture remain. For example, the barbers’ chairs are the originals from the time of purchase. They’ve since been reupholstered and repaired as needed, but all in all these chairs have truly stood the test of time and have seated thousands upon thousands of customers over the course of the past 49 years.

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Personal Connection In speaking with Giovanni, I discovered that many of my own family members were clients of his in the 1960s and 70s, when many of them lived in the Centretown area. As did the majority of the Centretown Italian community, my family moved to Ottawa West in the 1980s. This discovery sparked a bit of a study into the former addresses of my mom and grandparents. With the help of modern tools such as Google’s “Street View”, it is easy to take a “walk down Memory Lane” and revisit old neighbourhoods and recall the past lives of buildings, homes, and businesses. It is this very type of storytelling, this “personal archive” of a street, that is valuable to the understanding of the heritage of a site, because it begins to build a narrative over the course of a building’s life that has not necessarily been recorded. In this capacity, there is an opportunity for past business owners and residents of Chinatown to share their stories and memories, and to perhaps compare them with Chinatown’s present condition. Proposal One option for sharing these personal histories of Chinatown is to incorporate them as links on the current Somerset website (http://www.ottawachinatown.ca). Currently, the website features an extensive business directory, which is broken down both alphabetically and by category.5 This type of interface could easily be expanded to include a link to the narrative of the business/building in question. To take the website one step further, a new homepage could be developed that displays a visual of the streetscape, through which the website user could “navigate” or “visit” each building by clicking on its image, and then being redirected to its related story.


The website “Murmur Toronto” (http://murmurtoronto.ca) is an excellent precedent. It features maps of various Toronto neighbourhoods which links from various intersections and landmarks to audio files recording either the sounds of that particular location, or people speaking about its history, or sharing a personal memory centred around that particular place.6 There is a unique opportunity for Ottawa Chinatown’s website to incorporate audio as well. This could easily be done by recording the everyday sounds of Somerset’s market, giftshops, restaurants, and street noises. This would add another dimension to documentation of the street on its website, and it would really give potential visitors a vibrant sample of what he or she might experience on Somerset (Please see attached audio file of “The Sounds of Kowloon Market as an example of this). A second option for imparting this type of information, would be to compose a brochure or “field guide” to the Somerset Songlines. This brochure would offer a distinct look at the street, and would serve as a unique marketing tool. Recently, Susan Schwartzenberg published a travel guide outlining a walking tour of San Francisco’s Market Street entitled “Cento”, which included a mix of personal narrative, oral history, architectural renderings, and historic photographs.7 Schwartzenberg refers to the publication as a sort of “unofficial archives”. It allows for interpretation, and invokes the reader to recall his or her own personal memories and associations with the street. This type of guide serves as an excellent example of the type of brochure Ottawa Chinatown could put out and make available to its visitors. Conclusions By collecting and communicating its rich and diverse narrative history, Ottawa Chinatown has a rare opportunity to set itself apart from other parts of the city. This may be most crucial now more than ever, with the recent opening of the T&T Super Market at Riverside and Hunt Club potentially threatening business on Somerset Street West. It may very well be the personal, small-business atmosphere that distinguishes Somerset from its competition. Furthermore, in the larger context of heritage conservation, it can be said that when dealing with historically significant buildings, one needs to go a step beyond the physicality of the building and record its “unbuilt” heritage - the realities we do not see at first glance.

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Endnotes 1 Littlefield, David, and Saskia Lewis. Architectural Voices: Listening to Old Buildings. Chichester, England; Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2007, p.9. 2 Butterworth, Carolyn. “Of All We Survey: Drawing Out Stories of Place” in Littlefield, David, and Saskia Lewis. Architectural Voices: Listening to Old Buildings. Chichester, England; Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2007, p.148. 3 Littlefield, David, and Saskia Lewis. p.9. 4 Chatwin, Bruce. The Songlines. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1988. 5 “Ottawa Chinatown” <http://ottawachinatown.ca/?act=search>. 08/12/2009. 6 “Murmur Toronto” <http://murmurtoronto.ca/>. 08/12/2009. 7 Sholette, Gregory. “Archives of the Street” in Afterimage, Vol. 24, 1997. <http://www.questia.com/googleScholar.qst?docId=5000461892> 26/11/2009.


San Francisco

New York

Tokyo


07. GHOST ARCHITECTURE Anna Preiss

Chinatowns have become common place in large North American cities. Their prevalence represents a multicultural diversity unique to North America at the same time as it suggests the tendency for people to cluster with similar people. Ottawa’s Chinatown spans Somerset from Rochester to Percy and offers a variety of experiences for the visitor. Somerset street is a central corridor for travel in Ottawa and sees a significant amount of traffic throughout the day. More multicultural than most Chinatowns across the country, Somerset has vendors not only of Chinese decent, but also Vietnamese, Middle Eastern, Italian, and Korean, among others. It is clear that the potential for a thriving, vibrant community is present in Somerset; the key is harnessing it architecturally. The success of a Chinatown area depends on a number of factors. The community needs to be full and active, and the stores must be inviting to not just Chinese customers but to an array of multicultural patrons. Further, there needs to be a sense of cultural character, and perhaps most importantly, there should be an architectural density within which all the human interaction occurs. This image above depicts the main street of San Fran cisco’s Chinatown. The street wall is continuous and dense both vertically and horizontally. There is an eclectic array of signage that builds character without being tacky or brash. San Francisco’s Clay Street has the type of dense character typical of vibrant Chinatowns. In fact, Chinatowns have a long history of architectural concentration. Their density stems from the Asian urban culture found in the far east. Cities like Hong Kong, and Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo are intense collections of human interaction that typify the urban fabric found in successful Chinatowns. The image to the right depicts Tokyo’s metropolis. The dense interaction of human life on the street is drawn upward by the vertical signage which contributes to the vertical concentration of the space. The sidewalks are large and inviting, and the street wall cocoons the space with a horizontal density that implies fullness and vitality. A final example of an animated Chinatown is East Broadway in New York City. The image clearly depicts a dynamic street wall, not just at the street level but almost throughout the entire height of the buildings. Signage is not limited to the first storey, but extends up the fire escapes in both vertical and horizontal orientations. Signage also projects onto the street, filling the space between the facades. Chinatowns thrive within this type of dense architecture. The character of the density lures in a diversity of visitors and customers.

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Somerset lacks the dense architectural landscape that is present in the more vibrant Chinatowns. Many portions of the street were originally built for residential purposes and have been retrofitted into the multi-purpose retail/residential units they are now today. The original architecture, however, betrays its purely residential roots with the setbacks and property lines. The building gaps and laneways hinder the horizontal density of the street. Most buildings on Somerset are only two storeys high. Chinatowns are no stranger to high rise housing and structures. The smaller vernacular of Somerset hinders its ability to compete with the vertical density of the downtown core. Somerset lacks the feeling of a continuous street facade and this paucity of architectural space contributes to the lack of vibrancy in the Chinatown area. Three buildings warrant specific study. The buildings of note are on the North side of Somerset between Lorne and Empress; the Manphong Supermarket, the Thu Do, a Vietnamese Pho restaurant, and the New Pho Bo Ga La, also a Pho restaurant. These buildings were chosen because they are distinctly unique in colour, texture, materiality, size, shape, and scale. The Manphong Supermarket is a single story grey stone building with a sprawling footprint that contrasts starkly with to the small adjacent residences. Originally built as a bank, it has few windows for security. The horizontal grey brick emphasizes the width of the building, and the relationship with the ground is stressed by the awning,


which covers much of the glazing and the front entrance. The signage is reasonable, but the potential for a corner garden space is not captured. The Thu Do is a small residence that was converted into a restaurant with a single story addition off the front. Built in the typical Somerset style, the original building has a pitched roof, double hung windows with a simple header of concrete, and red brick masonry, now faded to a darker brown. The addition is done simply, with large display windows, two entrances, a thick anodized steel band cornice and multi coloured red brick masonry. There is a small gap between the Manphong Supermarket and the Thu Do, and a Laneway to the right of the building for parking and access to the space behind. The roof peaks at the height of three stories, but the vertical density of the space is diminished by the sloping roof. The Laneway provides a gap between the Thu Do and the New Pho Bo Ga La, breaking up the horizontal continuity of the street facade. The New Pho Bo Ga La is a remodelled residence done in a wood frame and stucco style with Asian origins. The light red framing used throughout the facade is unique on the street, and the storefront is open and inviting. The interesting architectural addition of the projecting bay window and the sloped roof adjunct to the side add dynamism to facade, and the space opens up toward the entrance to the Dominican Gardens just further east. The building has a nice street wall facade, but does not connect visually to the Thu Do, and thus lacks a horizontal continuity and density on this portion of the street. Seen together it is clear these buildings each have their own merits and weaknesses. The buildings can emphasize their uniqueness while contributing to the continuity of the street by working in tandem. The relationship between the individual and the whole is the key to urban density. If this balance is achieved successfully, the space will become naturally more vibrant and effervescent. The first step to creating visual density is connecting the buildings horizontally. This can easily be achieved at a relatively low cost (figure 1). The solution proposed here is twofold. Installing decorative grilles between the Thu Do and the Manphong Supermarket is the first step to achieving horizontal connection. This bridges the small empty space between the two buildings simply and effectively. Because the space is inaccessible, it is not important to worry about a gate in this location. The grilles can serve a secondary purpose as well, in the form of a garden and vertical greenery. A small garden with climbing plants in this location would contribute to the continuity of the space and the density of the street. Vegetation is always an effective solution to visual density, as plants are never tacky and can integrate well into any building facade. 36

Installing a gate over the laneway between the Thu Do and the New Pho Bo Ga La is the second part of the minimal approach. A gate visually connects the two buildings while maintaining the function of the laneway. Gates have the added benefit of establishing increased security and privacy. Building a gate in a tasteful manner can contribute to the character of both buildings and project the sense of a unified facade to the street. Like garage doors, gates can be installed to open automatically, and no inconvenience would be experienced by the driver. The more intensive approach involves the grilles and the gate, as well as a number of other small alterations (figure 2). These are meant to be applied without any real change to the existing buildings, while presenting a new and unified street facade. The first step after the installation of the minimal approach would slightly alter the existing buildings to improve their visual appeal. This can include hanging vertical banners on the grey brick of the Manphong, and painting the edge of the pitched roof of Thu Do a more vibrant colour. The Thu Doâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s anodized steel cornice would benefit from a material replacement. Natural materials are always preferable, because they are unobtrusive and can blend effectively with most building types. Replacing the cornice with horizontal wood siding would add warmth to the facade. Extending the cornice to connect with the New Pho Bo Ga La would be a simple operation if done when replacing the steel, and would visually concentrate the space over the


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figure 1


figure 2 laneway. Including visual markers along the street maximize the flow and dynamism of the sidewalk experience. These posts, which can double as bike locks, delineate the street and provide a segmentation and continuity that creates density at the human scale. The final installation would be the eponymous Ghost Architecture. Ghost Architecture suggests space without creating it. It implies density without an invasive architectural overhaul. Ghost Architecture is an effective solution applicable on Somerset because it provides an opportunity for visual densification without damaging the existing built heritage. This coincides with the heritage conservation movement, which necessitates the new additions be visually separate from the existing historic architecture. Ghost Architecture makes it immediately obvious which parts of the building are prior conditions, and which installations are modern interventions. It is important to respect the past, while at the same time providing visual relevancy to the modern community. The ghost installations illustrated in this case study are three glass cubes located in the visual gaps of the facade. They are light, virtually maintenance free, and create density of the facade effectively and permanently. The ghosts can provide opportunities for tasteful advertisements to be painted or etched onto the glass surface. More advertisement space can generate additional income for land owners. The ghosts can also house local art installations, which contribute to the cultural character of the street and attract visitors. Finally, the ghosts can act as lanterns when lit up at night. The light of Somerset at night is not as vibrant as it could be, creating issues of safety and inhibiting the streetâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s nightlife. With the ghosts working as lanterns, the ambient light of the place increases, creating a more inviting and safe neighbourhood to visit in the evenings.

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The glass materiality of the ghosts makes a strong statement on the street facade. This not only makes for a more engaging architectural experience, but speaks to the importance of heritage conservation principles. Glass architecture is not prevalent in historic Chinatown, and adding it to the architectural landscape would increase the visual diversity of the street. Connecting the heritage architecture with modern glass installations continues the architectural narrative of Chinatown, lending it the modernity necessary to survive. Urban densification is vital when increasing the liveliness and vibrancy of the street. Somerset lacks both horizontal continuity and vertical density, making it a less desirable location to visit than the market or Centertown. In order for Somerset to compete with these more architecturally dense locations, it must create visual concentration and continuity through careful installations connecting the buildings of the street. With the inclusion of Ghost Architecture, Somerset can accomplish a program of densification without harming the heritage structures and maintaining the history of the place. Bridging the historic and the modern is an important step in the narrative of Somerset, and it is one which will increase the effectiveness of the Chinatown area in Ottawa.


08. INCREASING CUSTOMER TRAFFIC Corey Brown

This proposal seeks to further establish Chinatown as a major promenade in Ottawa, similar to Bank Street or Elgin Street, but with its own unique, and established, character. The constant activity, variety of restaurants, and presence of festivals sets the stage for a community that is already capable of serving a larger audience of patrons. To allow Chinatown Somerset to reach its full potential, a greater amount of patrons and customer traffic must be attracted and maintained to utilize what is already in place for them. The location could not be better, as there are many surrounding residential communities from which a robust customer base can be drawn from. Furthermore, Somerset is a significant conduit for commuters from Westboro to the Downtown core, even during winter months. There are three steps that can be broken down into smaller actions and implemented to obtain the interest of new customers and traffic within Somerset Chinatown’s stores: 1. Give meaningful attention to storefront facades and displays. 2. Provide more cyclist parking along the promenade 3. Create a pedestrian and bicycle friendly experience by implementing a boulevard which separates pedestrians from cyclists, and cyclists from motorists. If a larger audience can be attracted to Chinatown, and sustained, it will lead to a more profitable Chinatown for store owners and a more vibrant Ottawa core. With the near completion of many new local condo developments, there will be yet another increase in downtown core population from which Chinatown can draw a considerable customer base. The steps previously mentioned can be a starting point from which further steps might be taken to seize this opportunity. An evaluation of Chinatown storefronts as being successfully inviting, while maintaining the characteristics of the community, will likely reveal that there are some missed opportunities: 1. Utilizing the large display windows already in place to their full potential as visual portals. 2. Using these windows to display the products or services that can be acquired within 3. To create a visual language that invites passersby to experience and participate in the transactions that occurs within the store-space.

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The storefront window is an important and key marketing opportunity, and costs only a bit of thought and effort. Think of it as a 3d billboard with the potential to grab customer’s attention and bring them into your store rather than your competitor’s. The store window is an opportunity to let passersby understand the store’s products and/ or services in a quick and attractive manner. On a micro scale, a thoughtfully dressed window or product display can increase traffic and interest, leading to a greater number of potential customers. On a macro scale, areas with shops that have attractive window displays are more likely to experience increased pedestrian traffic because the overall promenade is aesthetically pleasing. The first step to having a better store-to-public relationship is to establish where display opportunities exist. For Chinatown Somerset, this is the storefront windows. Next, establish the message you would like pedestrians to understand: Are you bargain oriented? trendy? Classically oriented? Exotic? High end? What services do you offer? Establishing this message will be very valuable in making your window display focused and effective, and so this step should not be skipped. Security tactics like barred windows are effective in deterring people from breaking and entering, but they also carry the visual message of “KEEP OUT,” and are therefore, by design, uninviting. If security is a major concern for you, consider an alternative method, such as an electronic security system, rather than barricading your customers from being able to see in without looking through bars.


Windows are for looking through and letting light in. Cluttered shelves or an over abundance of posters and signs block customers from seeing into your store and will also send the message that your store is overcrowded. If a product can be seen from the storefront window, then there is no need for a sign that states it is there: the customer will be able to see that it is in stock, as well as other products or services. This opens your store up to the customer instead of closing them out with curtains of posters and signs. Now there is room to use your storefront window to its full marketing potential. Here are 10 items to consider while designing or setting up your window display:

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1. Don’t overdo it. Less can be more, or at least more easily discernible to the eye. A cluttered window loses appeal and featured items can get lost. 2. Make merchandise/service the focal point. Not unlike a television commercial in which everyone remembers the commercial but forgets the product, you do not want your window dressing to overshadow your products or services. 3. Accentuate products with good lighting. Whether the window is recessed or under a spotlight, the goal is to highlight the products or suggested services within the overall display. If the window design simply features your brand/Image, rather than specific products, then balance the lighting throughout. Removing clutter from the storefront window allows natural sunlight to evenly and pleasingly light your display. 4. Place items in the window at varying heights and depths. This will help catch shoppers’ attention and make the overall display inviting to the eye. 5. Have fun with mannequins. If you are using mannequins, create interesting poses, and make sure that each one is well lit and easily visible to customers passing by. 6. Be creative. Let your imagination run free — as long as you don’t lose sight of the objective — and draw customers into the store with innovative, attractive, and compelling displays. Copying a precedent is good, but originality is great. 7. Remember your theme. Keep your window theme in mind and decorate according to that theme. This keeps your display clear and concise. 8. Draw in drivers. If your potential customers drive rather than walk, make your display larger and use more color to draw the attention of a passing motorist. 9. Use backdrops. Backdrops are useful tools to create positive and forceful displays. It can also separate the window from the store if a cash register or other store function is at the front. 10. Stock up on featured products. If your store has seasonal or occasional features, don’t draw customers in to buy merchandise that you don’t have enough of. Source: allbusiness.com If you have an exceptionally creative member on staff, you might consider making this person the “go-to” window designer. Once you start working on the actual displays, go outside often to get an idea of how the display looks from the street and sidewalk. Does it grab your attention? Is your theme clear? Continue to alter the display until you have the look that you want, and remember to change your window displays often to keep them fresh: Even making seasonal changes reminds customers that you are present and your store is active. Now that the promenade has a pleasant view from the curb, it is time to consider the potential customers that will be looking in, and the ease with which they can pursue the intrigue of the storefront’s offering. Customers who are driving by in cars will need a parking lot that is conveniently close to their desired destination: However, parking lots or garages largely disrupt the flow of the promenade and create longer walks to the destination. For this reason, pedestrians and cyclists can be catered to in a much less expensive way that maintains the character of the neighbourhood-turned-promenade experience.


Security grille is uninviting Signs block the storeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s space and physical content

Large, unobstructed windows Current specials Seeing people within encourages others to enter


Parking Somerset Chinatown can plan for cyclists by including artful bicycle parking. An even rhythm that ties the street together along the many different adaptations of vernacular buildings can create an atmosphere of being a cohesive promenade, rather than a fragmented cluster of stores. This rhythm can be achieved with bike locks. The bike locks could be fabricated in a similar fashion to Bank Street’s newest additions, or constructed from steel tubing that forms sculptures reflecting the community’s desired aesthetics. This could be an open art competition, much like Bank Street’s, where a format for bike locks is voted on, then store owners (or artistically inclined employees) and/ or area artists are challenged with creating line drawings that can be fabricated into plates used for the bike locks. This means the stores would have custom art that reflects their perception of Chinatown outside their store, serving a purpose and reflecting community values. Furthermore, it makes it easier for cyclists to secure their bike and enter the store or restaurant in a proximate fashion. Bikes would not have to be locked to signs and other make-shift security opportunities, allowing for a more cohesive and planned promenade to reveal itself. By making it easier for customers travelling by bicycle, there is a greater potential for cyclists to utilize what is there for them, and this will increase store and restaurant traffic. Bicycle boulevard As a long term retrofitting project, Somerset Chinatown could be a leader in Ottawa for promoting a more sustainable transportation infrastructure. If a variance from the Ottawa Bylaws is acquired, “The public art bike racks reflect the unique identity and character of the neighbourhood and exhibit the talent and diversity of Ottawa’s artists. As a series, they encourage cycling and movement up and down the street as people explore and discover the clever and exceptional designs and make connections to the vibrant community.” -ottawastart.com/story/9964.php

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a ‘bicycle boulevard’ could be realized in one of the lanes currently used by automobiles. One boulevard could serve both directions, although two boulevards would be ideal for aesthetics and circulation. Each cyclist lane would require 1.5 meters width, which still leaves a considerable amount of room for tree planters and curb, or a just a curb that separates cars from cyclists. The first lane, or boulevard, that could be created when Somerset Street is due for a retrofitting should be on the right side heading west. This is because it feels much nicer to be going downhill without worrying about people opening their car doors, or being forced into erratic traffic during rush hour. If a bicycle boulevard could be implemented, it would allow Somerset to become the route from Downtown to Westboro, and vice versa. The Boulevard’s initiation would be sure to garner some press, and that would remind people of Chinatown and give a reason to visit. Perhaps it would surprise a few with the forward approach to inner city infrastructure, establishing Somerset Chinatown as an Ottawa community leader.


Sculptural bike lock made from steel tubing in Aberdeen, Texas.


Expression of the atmospheric qualities of the Chinatown area, relating to light, density and overall eventfulness of this community on a day to night cycle.

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09. EVENTFUL STREETSCAPE / STOREFRONT AS GATEWAY TO THE EVENT Shea MacDougall

So much of heritage conservation within our cities, towns and communities relies on our ability to identify the characteristics that are most valued amongst those existing in these places. Establishment of a relationship between inhabitation and inhabitant begins with such identification. First impressions of a place are much like those between people; filled with assumptions and missed communication, often resulting in unintended impacts to the desired relationship. Somerset Chinatown of Ottawa has a peculiar character that can easily falter from such misinterpretation, especially by those it wishes to attract. Intermingling of culture and built heritage is inherent to Ottawaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Chinatown, and has formed a community filled with potential. Rich cultural experiences have become the desired projection for those currently living, and operating in the Chinatown area. Most businesses pride themselves on their independence and ability to provide unique experiences which is diverse as the buildings in which they reside. As is the case, the potential of these rich experiences can often go un-recognized or miss interpreted; the key issue to be addressed is the accurate re-representation of the Somerset Chinatown area. The question thus, is how this hidden potential may be revealed without compromising what makes it desirable in the first place. Too often are changes made to communities that significantly alter the cumulative qualities of the given place. Preliminary initiatives revolved around the adoption of new iconography in an attempt to emphasize the diverse culture of Chinatown; a proposal that is characteristic of the fallacy which has been previously identified as too drastic an effect for the Somerset Chinatown community. For the issue here calls not for the implementation of the new, but for the revitalization of the existing conditions; Chinatown is not without an identity, it simply needs a clarified presence. A presence, that once identified, could better inform the decisions of future redevelopment. Preliminary investigations to identify the diverse character of Somerset Chinatown seemed contradictory from a subjective point of view; whereby a handful of exemplary sites would be pulled from the context as a means of creating a general overview of the cumulative effect of the defined cultural diversity. In short, the process evolved into an animation of the entire streetscape of Somerset St, from Bay St. to Prescott St. both north and south sides. 47

This resulted in an overall expression of the atmospheric qualities of the Chinatown area, qualities relating to light, density and overall eventfulness of this community on a day to night cycle. What can be taken from this investigation is an objectified stance on when and where the eventfulness occurs within the streetscape; how impact of signage changes from day to evening, and how artificial lighting projects onto the street from within the existing built environment. These video animations do reveal an overall character of the place, within a compression of time; one can experience the varying densification and the change in architectural character that would be unjustifiably altered through a single intervention. Before re-development can occur, it seems most appropriate that the Somerset Chinatown community undergo a re-representation of what is to transpire through event from one storefront to the next. An overall intensification of this activity would provide a stronger incentive for a more informed development from an investment point of view. Speaking of finances, much of this change could be achieved at relatively low cost through the evaluation of current operations. These operations becoming the operative could be achieved through the expression of a contracted artist or designer whom is competent in this experiential language. Activation of the storefront,


as a gateway to an event, does exist in Somerset Chinatown. This project simply proposes the intensification of this method based on the existing models. It is a common belief that new development will infuse a community with new energy; which in some scenarios, may be the case, although the relationship between new and old is highly indeterminate and cannot be compromised or undermined if revitalization is the goal. An informed presence addresses the quality of existing conditions, which to some may be more telling to the character of Chinatown with or without intervention. Therefore, it becomes the objective of this project to determine the potential effects of a pre-condition made active; to reveal the eventfulness of what is internalized by those now living in the Chinatown area. It is the efforts of these people that contribute to the culture in question, and must be made present, for the sake of revitalization and the heritage conservation of Somerset Chinatown. Buildings gain heritage value not just through their physical features but more so through the events and activities that occur within; the interactions of people as they go about their day, more often mundane, although this doesn’t always have to be the case. An excursion through Somerset Chinatown ought to be an explorative experience of the diversified culture that exists there. Not to say that this isn’t the current case, but that there exists an innumerable possible ways to exploit the interests of the Chinatown excursionist. Presentations ought to go beyond the limits of the static sign language that pervades Somerset Chinatown. There exist models within this community that seem familiar with this experiential language; as such, they become the foundation for the proposed intensification of this language. Each and every establishment has the potential to gain from their independence; unlike the TNT Superstore, these businesses can dictate the level of engagement of their unique operations. Operations made operative and approached as an opportunity to immerse the excursionist in an eventful streetscape. As stated, much of the foresaid culture remains internalized behind non-activated facades; although the notion of event is not unfamiliar to the Somerset Chinatown community. Presently there are two major festivals operating annually in Ottawa’s Chinatown. Festivasia and the Chinatown Remixed are events in place that activate the streetscape through a sustained duration of time. It is exactly this type of experience that ought to be utilized in activating the Somerset streetscape on a day to day basis.

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Moving through Ottawa’s Chinatown, one can appreciate the communities desire to achieve an atmosphere based on creativity and expression through the presentation of numerous wall murals done by local artisans. One mural of particular interest is presented on the side façade of Yee Cheong Tong Inc, the wall that happens to face the municipal parking lot which doubles as public event space. This mural is a representation of the proposed Gateway sponsored by Beijing. It is not the representation of the gate itself that is of interest but rather the events of which it frames. What is captured within the represented gateway is an iconic dragon; an obvious reference to the cultural events to take place within the community, the speed of this dragon is being tracked by the radar of a police officer while spectators watch in the background. The plaque commemorating this mural reiterates the significance of this piece of work, “The mural incorporates humor, community spirit, and heritage characteristics into a masterpiece of distinct artwork...” More so, the mural provides a static image of the eventfulness of this community through the consideration of speed and therefore time. It is exactly this notion of time and event that needs to be considered for each and every storefront façade. Storefront as gateway to an event, translates the focus from the materialized architec-


ture to the events occurring within. This is by no means a new concept for commercial advertising established within the last century. Storefronts benefit from large display windows and possible reveal of transom lights; upper windows on the ground level that are often covered with contemporary materials for additional signage space. Not only is cluttered signage an apparent issue for Somerset Chinatown, but more importantly the communication of this sign language becomes cluttered when what is advertised is not necessarily made present in the available display / event space. All of this combined creates momentary confusion within the excursionist, neither engaged nor immersed; he or she will most likely continue at the pace they were moving. At this point within the investigative process, a second animation was created in an attempt to highlight the current condition of the signage and display language. This may be viewed as a micro presentation on the effectiveness of the current condition; which as previously stated, is comprised of event and non-event circumstance, whereby some storefronts become more immersive than others. Why this is the case can be hard to determine through its momentary subjective status but, what may be said in general is that there is much potential in most storefronts to create a depth in which one can physically immerse themselves for a momentary lapse of time. Initial response to the possible clarification of these displays would be to remove the unnecessary clutter and cladding material of the storefront. This would be an attempt to provide as much natural light as possible; although, would this not be a similar fallacy as previously discussed? Is there not something to the general disarray of Chinatown displays and architecture that speaks to the character of this place? Well yes and no; the mediating factor becomes that of communicated clarity at point of projection which emanates from the storefront gateway. The following display comparison exemplifies this concept.

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These following two displays taken from the Ottawa Chinatown area both provide similar services, specializing in kitchen ware and Asian crafts. Initial reaction to both displays is that of a general clutter of items. This would be considered as a general contradiction of the common model adopted by most commercial areas; and yet, the display on the left successfully projects the intended product, while the display on the right demonstrates the confusion of a sign language where much is advertised and yet a general repetition of product is displayed. So what are the differences? Well the left display presents the product in a flowing narrative, creating a sequence of events much like those discussed in this proposed methodology; while the display on the right suffers from a repetition of a similar product which is not so dissimilar to the pervading effect of uncoordinated signage in Somerset Chinatown. Repetition becomes the cause of breakdown within the sign language, between what is read and unfortunately not presented in the display. Circumstances would have been different had the sign read, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;abundance of white porcelain kitchen wareâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. Throughout the process of investigation a methodology has been developed and prescribed specifically for the Somerset Chinatown area. So the question remains on how this methodology may be applied to Ottawaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Chinatown; how can the Somerset B. I. A. begin to implement this process into the revitalization of their community? To begin with, further analysis may be done on the pre-condition of exemplary nodes of activity for the Somerset area, potential eventfulness as it relates to significant buildings of considerable heritage value. As precedence, the following building proposal integrates the resulting observation of the atmospheric conditions at Rochester St. and Somerset as a node of potential whereby the revitalizing process may begin. On the northwest corner of this intersection there exists a built architecture. An architecture, that before the formulation of this methodology and well before the establishment of any consideration toward the value of heritage conservation, would have completely gone unrecognized for its internalized potentiality. This potential


speaks of the becoming of an event, a concealed operative that could be projected upon the streetscape in the activation of its pre-conditioned façade. Simple observations which are made in response to the presentation of the Sang Video and Coinwash establishment, have resulted in a unique (re)presentation that considers the effectiveness of the current sign language and its enhancement through the activation of both services which are currently available inside. Sang Video and Coinwash currently offers video rental and laundry mat services and the solution becomes readily apparent. Why not merge these services into a cohesive event, one that integrates the projection and rental of authentic Asian cinema with the mundane experience of doing ones laundry? This merger would not only create a unique experience within Somerset Chinatown community, but also begin to accurately communicate the eventfulness to be had through the activation of Asian cinema projected upon the display surfaces of this century old building. In conclusion, the implementation of this methodology requires an active listener and hint of humor; that together may result in desirable side-effects that may further enhance the diversity of culture readily available in the Chinatown community. Once established, further partnerships may be had between new investors, local artists, and current store owners; strengthening both the community and unique presence of Ottawaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Chinatown.

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Why not merge these services into a cohesive event, one that integrates the projection and rental of authentic Asian cinema with the mundane experience of doing laundry?

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10. ANIMATION THROUGH YOUTH PARTICIPATION Mixay Adam Khamphoune

The Challenge Although promoted, walking down Somerset would demonstrate that this aspect of Ottawa’s Chinatown remains quite hidden. My intention is to propose ways in which Ottawa’s Chinatown can be architecturally enhanced in order to meet and begin to exceed this claim of being a family friendly area with particular emphasis on how to attract and appeal more to youth.

A Site Proposal The Dalhousie Community Center at 755 Somerset St. on the corner of Empress and Somerset is centrally located on Somerset Chinatown. Currently it is owned by the city of Ottawa and is used as a community center and is home to the Nanny Goat Hill Nursery School and the Door Youth Program all within its four storey structure. The building itself was constructed in 1985 and is a wonderful example of stone construction with classical exterior design elements which makes it a unique building along Somerset.1 However, although a community center, the atmosphere surrounding the building is quite docile and introverted. The building itself, from appearance, is in excellent condition; however it lacks a presence which allows it to be welcoming and engaging. The signage is extremely difficult to read and is most likely an attempt to ensure that it does not overwhelm the architectural character of the building. It is my intention to bring out the best of this building through architectural intervention and suggest how this building can become an integral part of the community fabric so that it does not get lost as a building without any significance to the Asian community. I believe that the area surrounding the building has a lot of potential to become a great community space where people can gather and begin to animate the street. Because the building is currently not open on Saturdays (due to lack of demand) the building suggests that having a weekend international language school would be an ideal scenario for the building to be used during this day and attract more of the Asian community to this area.

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Mixed-use building without additional construction Getting the next generation involved with Ottawa’s Chinatown can help create a greater sense of community identity. There is a healthy amount of commercial establishments and activity that run along Somerset Street and Ottawa’s Chinatown prides itself as being “a multicultural village with an Asian flavor”. What better way to strengthen this idea of a multicultural community/ village than to get the next generation to appreciate the Asian culture which Chinatown is promoting and bringing to Ottawa. That is why I feel that having an Asian language school within Chinatown would be a wonderful addition to the community. This would help draw youth down to Somerset, along with their families, which does not rely strictly on consumerism. By learning about the language and culture, the children would be able to appreciate the character of the village and even use it as an environment to help them learn and use the foreign language skills being taught.

The Ottawa Mandarin Public School was established in 1989 by a group who wanted to ensure that the traditional Mandarin education and culture in the Ottawa Carleton region would not be lost over time as we move from generation to generation. The School is affiliated with the Ottawa Catholic School Board’s International Languages Program and provides language instruction for school age children from Junior Kindergarten (age 4) to Grade 8 (age 14). The school uses traditional teaching tools such as text books/workbooks supplemented by additional sources for reading, writing, games, videos and computer aided training. They also have workshops in various cultural activities and also have many events during the year to help students better appreciate the language. Being a school, they also have a sizeable video and book library.2 Through the years the school has been facilitated by using schools in the Ottawa Catholic School Board’s inventory around Ottawa. When I


attended, the school was held at the Holy Cross School on Springland Drive and then moved to St Marguerite D’youville Catholic School on Lorry Greenberg Drive. Currently the school resides at St. Thomas More School, 1620 Blohm Drive. As this would suggest, the school’s location is based on the proper accommodations being available. Looking at an overview of the Dalhousie Community Centre floor plans, we can see that there is sufficient room for primary grade levels to have their own individual classes. Additionally, the large multipurpose room on the 3rd floor can be used as an assembly room.

Benefits A convenient aspect of foreign language programs, such as the Ottawa Mandarin Public School, is that they occur once a week (Saturday 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.) and this would help ensure that youth would be visiting Chinatown on a constant basis which in turn would usually require the involvement and presence of their families and would give them a reason to continue to interact with Chinatown and make it part of their routine. Furthermore, the fact that they occur once a week allows these programs to double up on existing infrastructure such as the Dalhousie Community Center. There are also many other potential benefits to introducing this type of program to Chinatown. Asian Language programs such as the Ottawa Mandarin School offer classes with the addition of afternoon workshops which students have the choice to enroll in. Students can enroll in workshops such as Kung Fu, Traditional Chinese Dancing, and Chinese Chess (there could be others such as painting and calligraphy, origami, music, etc.) and are all taught by professionals. These after class activities could be practiced and preformed outdoors and add character to Chinatown. Like any school, this would also bring the addition of a small library in this area which can be enjoyed by students and the community (another program which Ottawa’s Chinatown does not currently have). This would also help promote Asian literature/culture in Chinatown. Since programs such as the Ottawa Mandarin School actively celebrate Chinese festivals/holidays within the school environment, there is potential for these types of celebrations to take place outdoors and also help animate the street and become a draw for the rest of the city to come and participate in.

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Pavilion As mentioned before, the docile environment currently felt outside the community centre could benefit from having a small scale intervention. Currently the seating arrangement is too far apart to suggest anything other than sitting and talking and the Asian character of the rest of Somerset Chinatown is missing from this area. Considering this, many simple elements can be infused into this area and create a more dynamic and alluring area along the street. Introducing some sort of framing device can create a more elegant outdoor space which can start to suggest the significance of open areas along Somerset. A pavilion can be constructed using traditional Chinese building principles which would add to the Asian character of the street. This pavilion can provide a frame which establishes a place for people to gather by providing a more intimate seating arrangement which can also bring the element of entertainment by providing a space for games such as mahjong, Chinese chess and cards can be played. The artwork that children make can also be displayed along the street to demonstrate the type of learning which maybe occurring within the Community Centre. There could also be some sort of mural project which could be developed and executed by the students to allow them to add their artistic signature to Chinatown. By using hanging scrolls and silk screen methods, artworks can be created which are easily transported can be displayed at the pavilion or moved around Chinatown. Chinatown benefits from being a multicultural village and as such should also take advantage of the diverse art of music which they can represent. There are a wide variety of unique musical instruments and songs styles originating from Asian which could be explored to keep part of the Asian musical heritage alive within Ottawa. The music studio in the Dalhousie Community Centre could be set up to be a common place for the teaching and exploration of Asian music. By bringing the rehearsal/ study of music outside can add a pleasant rhythm to the street which can be shared with the rest of the community.


The pavilion can provide an impromptu stage where people can gather and create musical harmonies.

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Outdoor Court Although there are considerable gaps along Somerset (reserved for parking), the street lacks an outdoor open court within its center where people can gather. There is MacDonald Park at the end of Somerset and Bay Street however this is over at one extreme of Chinatown which does not really interact with the rest of the village. However, there is always the option of opening up the space which is currently available. As such, it should be recommended that the small yet gated lot behind the Dalhousie Community Center be opened up so it can truly become a community space. This area could be used as an auditorium for the Asian Language school program and can provide outdoor space for after school activities. This area could also serve as an outdoor theatre, much like the Centretown Movies at MacDonald Park6, which can have movie screenings during the evening which could become a part of a night out routine where people go down to Chinatown to have dinner and then catch an Asian Movie. The Lantern Festival along the Street Essentially originating from light festivals of Asian cultures, a lantern festival can be an event which can animate Somerset during the evening. The Lumiere Festival of Ottawa, organized by the Crichton Cultural Community Centre, has been held since 2004 and currently takes place in Strathcona Park along the Rideau River during mid August to September. The event draws many people to volunteer and get involved by creating lanterns, dressing up in costume, or performing during the evening.7 If Ottawa Chinatown was to consider following this example, they would most likely be looking to apply for an Ontario Trillium Foundation Grant. The grants are offered to non-for-profit organizations in order to help build healthy and vibrant communities by strengthening the capacity of the voluntary sector through investments in community-based initiatives.8

Conclusion Enhancing the overall feeling of Asian culture along Somerset Chinatown plays a significant role in the sustainability of Asian heritage within Ottawa. By enhancing community assets, the greater feeling of community involvement will help draw people down to this place and begin to offer balance of Asian culture which will compliment the already strong provision of Asian merchandise and cuisine. By facilitating this community network, Somerset Chinatown can represent a truly wide spread Asian demographic not only form the Somerset area. By introducing an educational program/component to Ottawa’s Chinatown it will allow for the next generation to contribute to the sustainability of Asian culture within Somerset and will help ensure that the built environment will remain an active part of this heritage within Ottawa.

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References 1 Carleton University. Somerset Chinatown Heritage Inventory 2006. 2 “About the Ottawa Mandarin School” Ottawa Mandarin School – International Language Program (Traditional Mandarin). 17 Dec. 2009 < http://www.ottawa-mandarin- school.ca/> 5 Fred S. Kleiner & Christin J. Mamiya. Gardner’s Art through the Ages 12th Edition. Wadsworth, 2005. 6 Centretown Movies < http://www.csit.carleton.ca/~arya/cm/ > 7 The Lumiere Festival” The Lumiere Festival. < http://www.lumiereottawa.com/about_e.html 8 “Ontario Trillium Foundation” < http://www.trilliumfoundation.org >


11. STREETSCAPES: RE-IMAGINING SOMERSET CHINATOWN Craig Gillier Nevil Wood Jeremy Van Dyke

Precedent Study: Ottawa/NY/Montreal/Vancouver/San Francisco/London When looking at various case studies elsewhere in North America and abroad, the aesthetic character of the neighbourhood, and by extension it’s sense of identity, can be defined in two ways. First is the building fabric, that is, the aesthetic of the individual buildings making up the block, including signage, store-front areas, etc. This building fabric must be continuous for it to have maximum effect (breaks of street continuity in the form of empty lots diminish this), as is exemplified quite well by the Chinatown districts in both Toronto and Montreal. Secondly, and more interestingly, this aesthetic character can be defined by what starts happening in the space in between the building fabric, or, to put it simply, the streetscape. This public domain covers space from shopfront to shop-front on either side, any kind of street fixture or furniture (benches, planters, trees, street lighting, bicycle racks, newspaper stands etc.) and, used effectively, can dynamically charge the “feel” of the neighbourhood in a few very simple ways. When looking at this notion of streetscape at our various precedents, let us first look specifically at Ottawa, Vancouver, New York and Montreal. Ottawa’s Somerset-Chinatown district has most of its symbolic aesthetic tied up in its building fabric, or street façade. However, due in large part to the numerous gaps and empty lots, the built fabric does not read at a pedestrian level as a cohesive whole, as is the case in other cities such as Vancouver and Toronto. In the case of Toronto, part of what makes the Chinatown district so recognizable is the extremely vibrant sidewalk life, including vendors selling products in stalls and the large amount of pedestrian traffic through the area. The façade continuity is also very strong, with minimal access laneways penetrating the city blocks to compromise the overall effect.

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Note the difference between Vancouver and Toronto. Attempts have been made here to address the streetscape as being integral to the character of the neighbourhood. Coloured streetlamps and flag standards start adding an extra level of richness to the visual aesthetic. However, the thread which unifies Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and even New York is a lack of engagement with the streetscape. In order to illustrate this point more clearly, we can look at the examples of the Chinatown district in London, and also that of San Francisco. In both there are numerous examples of street decoration, not only in streetlamps but also in planters and, most strikingly, brightly coloured lanterns overhanging the street. This simple touch creates a sense of intimacy (an implied sense of enclosure) as well as acting as a clear advertisement for passersby as to the cultural significance of the area. London is the last case example analyzed in this report. Note the use of store-front signage is more restrained than in New York and Toronto, but the atmosphere of the street is heightened by an incredible array of inter-related streetscape elements: the red bollards, the symbolic entrance gateway, hanging ornaments and lanterns hanging between buildings, and the good use of lighting as a way of creating a memorable and exciting experience. Existing Conditions In our preliminary pedestrian analysis, several key points of interest were noted regarding the streetscape fabric of Somerset Chinatown. Of immediate notice was that there was no little to no effort made (either by street furniture or otherwise) to create an environment one would want to linger, or take


time passing through. The lack of benches means people need to leave the street to another place in order to rest, and few street plantings make the sidewalk space somewhat inhospitable and drab. There has been an effort in the past to create a sense of street continuity by means of red lampposts along the sidewalk, but this report advocates the position that more needs to be done in order to truly engage the streetscape. Sidewalk spaces are just as important as the retail opportunities offered, if not more so, in creating a vibrant and dynamic community atmosphere with a strong sense of cultural identity. The proposed project is to install a series of decorative sidewalk inlays, in conjunction with street furniture and tree plantings in order to create a slower-paced, more inviting street which encourages people to linger, spend more time in the shops, and make repeat visits. The scheme will also serve to create a more cohesive sense of community identity through the use of repeated elements and decorative motifs. The bench system has been designed so as to be ergonomically resistant to overnight sleeping, in response to overnight security concerns for the area. The simple rounded structure allows growing room for the central tree, which could hypothetically be a flowering tree, such as a cherry, which would create an extremely scenic streetscape in the spring. The materials used are wood, steel and concrete; all low cost and reasonably lowmaintenance in order to minimize capital expenditure. In order to emphasize the existing red streetlamps, part of the proposal is to install coloured cement or tile sidewalk inlays, with a brass-coated symbol, which itself could alternate between Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc. in order to reflect the diversity of the neighbourhood. These coloured sidewalk slabs would act as a repeating element down Somerset, re-enforcing the community identity, and serve to create a slightly less drab sidewalk environment for pedestrians. Simple steps such as this start engaging the idea of the streetscape, and have a profound impact upon how favourably people the atmosphere of Chinatown.

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“Montreal witnessed similar creative destruction after four large fires between 1850 and 1852 had destroyed almost one-fifth of the city’s housing stock. Here, too, fire proved to be a powerful agent of urban morphological change. Fires could reconcile the inertia of the built environment with the constant push to remodel the physical urban space according to the needs of a growing city in a capitalist economy. Since fire could be such a useful tool, it is hardly surprising that many urban fires were intentionally set.” - Jason Gilliland


12. “THERE’S A FIRE EVERY 3 MINUTES AROUND HERE” Lisa Jones Dominika Linowska Christian Rutherford

Fire as catalyst for urban renewal Ottawa’s Chinatown has been significantly impacted by numerous fires. Though they are unfortunate occurrences, they can provide opportunity. A brief survey was conducted to establish the needs of inhabitants, business owners and pedestrians along Somerset Street. From this, we were able to identify the area’s issues, and how to attain solutions for them. Some common concerns: - Many business owners in the area are in favour of replacing old buildings. - New buildings are seen as an opportunity for greater commercial viability, and to add new life to the area. - One woman indicated that new devtelopment on vacant fire lots would bring life to the neighbourhood. Her examples included: a groceteria, an eclectic retail sector, off-street parking, and further attention to visual art. - Parking is a priority. - Lack of space for collective gathering. - Demand for greater density. Three sites, three case studies. Possible solutions to the problems/needs will be illustrated within each of the proposals. Proposal 1 A three storey mixed use building which maintains the contextual language of Somerset: housing units above a glazed storefront. In the words of Christopher Alexander, “The street cafО provides a unique setting, special to cities: a place where people can sit lazily, legitimately, be on view, and watch the world go by.” Somerset is a busy pedestrian artery, filled with many businesses. People need moments of pause within such a dense flow of activities. A coffee shop is an ideal place for locals and/or visitors alike to gather: a destination where people feel safe enough to relax, catch up with their friends and maybe even meet new ones. An outdoor patio, sheltered by the residential units above, reveals an historical artifact: a brick wall, burnt by the 2005 fire. Carving public space out of new buildings allows for the creation of intimate places along a busy path without sacrificing limited sidewalk space. In addition to the terrace, which is open to the street, the cafО contains several other spaces within it. This allows for diverse uses according to various social styles. Adding a gallery inside the coffee shop, would create a place where Somerset’s talent and heritage would be showcased.

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Missing Teeth Fires have significantly eroded the street wall along Somerset. While some buildings have been replaced, many vacant lots languish. Land banking, an unfavourable economy and absentee landlords often prevent the immediate replacement of buildings lost to fire. Temporary use on these sites is restricted mainly to parking. While there is a need to accommodate cars, surface parking does little to enhance the streetscape. Consolidation of parking facilities (Proposal 3) would allow for active use of vacant lots until they are developed for permanent occupancy. The temporary use of a vacant lot would be dependent on context, needs, time, etc. Examples of interim uses include: community allotment gardens, public green space, a venue for art exhibits, farmers markets, community outreach, sports facilities. This proposal looks at how vacant land can be re-appropriated for temporary use. Instead of sitting empty, the lots contribute to the physical and cultural landscape of Somerset/Chinatown. This type of interim occupation can happen through the partnership of landowners and community organisations. It is important to shape planning policy that allows for this type of flexible land use. Creativity is key: developing active use strategies that bring life to the neighbourhood, and complement existing businesses. Booth and Somerset A major fire in 2007 destroyed the two historical buildings on this prominent corner. It remains vacant, for lease and currently operates as a parking lot. Proposal 2 A grid of free standing columns is introduced across the site, building on the resilience and adaptability of the grid plan on the urban scale. This basic intervention causes neighbours to rethink how the land is used, encouraging people to reclaim it. The columns provide the framework for introducing temporary uses on the site. A market in Lima, Peru was started in this way (Alexander, 249). Over time, the gaps between the columns are filled, uses change, growing. On the next page, two interim uses are illustrated. The columns demarcate the sections in an allotment garden, also providing the basis for necessary infrastructure (irrigation, etc.). The same column grid can be adapted into a market square, vendorsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; booths erected between the columns . A night market would be an exciting addition to Ottawaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Chinatown, as they have proven to be a popular attraction in other Canadian cities. Later, housing can be built over the site (permanent use), the ground floor can remain in the public realm as an indoor market.

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There is a growing movement in many North American cities to reclaim vacant land and unused buildings for community use. Some relevant online resources and case studies are listed in the appendix.


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Proposal 3 The corner of Somerset and Cambridge was made vacant after a large fire destroyed a hotel on the site. It is now a city-owned parking lot. Parking is seen as a major issue within the area. Surveyees emphasised that there, “is not enough parking” along Somerset, or on nearby side streets. It is evident that local businesses are reliant on automobilists. How to accomodate the need for parking while positively contributing to the urban fabric? Keeping within the scale of Somerset Street–its façades and storefront integrity–a four-story parking garage must be integrated accordingly. The logic of the parking garage conforms to the vertical storage unit. Raised above the street, pedestrians can choose to either engage with or ignore the structure. A typical parking garage is equal to several streets, but is lacking their social characteristics. It is evident, “large parking structures full of cars are inhumane and dead buildings” (Alexander, 477). It is possible to generate useable space in, on and around them. The main objective is to create positive space for pedestrians and inhabitants to thrive within. Parking must be built in such a way that it is shielded, either by storefronts, residential units, walls or vegetation. Figure 1 identifies two methods of integral parking compared to a typical parking garage. The shield is especially critical at ground-level, where pedestrians meet the structure; “and since the need for parking often goes hand in hand with commercial development, shops are often very feasible economically” (Alexander, 478). Illustrated are possible areas, that can accommodate commercial use: retail and restaurant. The structure is not exclusive to automobiles, but is also designed for bicycles. The next step in creating an integral parking garage is to provide a green wall, a natural shield that literally gives life to the structure’s façade. Here, local vegetation may grow annually, and further the beautification of Somerset. This model of parking garage negotiates the need for parking and pedestrian experience.

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The fires along Somerset/Chinatown constitute a blight. The need for a new approach to these fire sites is apparent. Although fires are damaging to the community, in the long-term they can benefit the neighbourhood’s vitality. Somerset/Chinatown is a dynamic area, with a unique history not to be overlooked. Future development of Ottawa’s Chinatown should reflect the cultural diversity of its inhabitants and the built heritage. The goal for densification of the city, the resolution of the Somerset streetscape as a whole, and the celebration of its diverse characteristics should be considered a priority.

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References Alexander, Christopher, et al. A Pattern Language. New York : Oxford University Press (1977) Bankoff, Greg; Lübken, Uwe; Sand, Jordan. “Flammable Cities: Fire, Urban Environment, and Culture in History” GHI Bulletin n. 43 (2008) Vacant land use, additional resources : http://www.pennsylvaniahorticulturalsociety.org/garden/vacantmanual.html http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/en/News/Archives/2008/October/temporary+parks+on+vacant+sites.htm


13. SOMERSET STREET WEST STOREFRONTS

1. immediate changes 2. long-term recommendations

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717-719 So Good Restaurant Ping Fat Lee

1. keep transoms clear restore signage paint keep windows unobstructed remove grille 2. possible outdoor seating repair foundations add perpendicular signage full length awning

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775 Manphong Supermarket

1. revise food display touch up detailing paint 2. restore window to full height drop canopy shift ramp to better engage street use blank wall for signage or green wall

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Christian Rutherford


820-824 Karuna Cafe

1. repair front steps remove/replace awnings paint pillars and rails same colour to unify storefront 2. reinstate original brick colour where white widen steps and expand terrace remove current railings and guardrails, install ones that match upper balcony rails. remove awning and install pergola paint balconies lighter colour remove current signs, install banner signage for higher visibility to pedestrians and motorists

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820-822-824 Somerset Street West

826-828 Season’sSomerset Pizza 820-822-824 Street West

- Reinstate original brick colour where painted white - Widen steps 1. (left side) and expand terrace (Material - Concrete) - Remove current terrace railings and guardrails, install new ones to match upper balcony paint railings black wooden rails - Remove paint awningdoor and install “pergola” in span between balconies - Paint balconies and pilars ato lighter colour to highlight thenupper and differentiate add awnings distinguish lower and façadesthem from the brickuse window for display, or add sign

Clean/Repar Strategies: - Repair front steps (current wood planks are in need of replacement) - Remove/Replace awning Signange 2. Recommendation: add short benches in front window signs and install banner styleofsignage . This will be more visible to - Pant pillars and rails same colour to unify storefront Remove current pedestrians and motorists, especially as the building is located on an incline. ‘punch’ out upstairs windows

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826-828 Somerset Street West - Paint railings black - Paint centre door - Add awnings to distinguish lower facade from upper facade - Take advantage of large windows as “display windows” +Corey Brown - Potentially add signage to window Amanda Conforti(decal transfers) 826-828 Somerset Street West - Paint railings black


832 MayLinh Restaurant

1. maximize size of glazed windows, retain original openings but use back-painted glass for lower sections awnings for visual interest 2. original openings ere extended for maximum transparency add canopies to emphasize entrance use brick for consistency

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835 Wah Shing Store

1. restore original openings move signage 2. wheelchair accessible ramp extend signage, cornice

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+Dominika Linowska

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Anita Yu


827 Somerset Shun Fat Hing Grocery

1. update signage repaint wall characters improve outdoor shelving repaint cornice and ‘ears’ 2. remove awning replace 1st storey window add permanent, attractive shelving improve entrance sequence replace sloped balcony roof with lower slope roof, could include small green roof new awning to side of building open vestibule, with garden in front

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802-806 Nasa Food Centre

1. update signage and lighting add flower boxes repaint cornice 2. open storefronts new colour scheme remove Nasa’s lighting unify fascia awning over apartment entrance

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+Evan Mullen

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Anna Preiss


800 ManPhat Grocery

1. set back shelving to allow better view of interior purchase new stands for storage and display bike rack 2. awnings new large glass windows

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797 Ottawa Medical Pharmacy

1. repair and paint cornice take inventory of signage, remove signage to reveal interior increase size of signs above windows, reduce needless text 2. more trees benches to create informal meeting point, place to eat lunch bike rack

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+Jeremy Van Dyke

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Jordan Yerbury


651 Shanghai Restaurant

1. retain existing storefront repair and refinish bay window repair and repaint eastern faรงade define corner with front faรงade colour 2. new cultural mural on east wall or reclad new paved walkway at side of building for tenants repair and repaint stucco new entrance at side

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609-615 Chinese Acupuncture and Herbs General Food Market Tang Coin Laundry

1. unify doors, repair mill work remove green carpet remove recessed awning, chicken wire use corner window for display, enhance art deco features 2. reestablish original, unified signage, retain existing materials : carrarra tile, vitrolite strengthen corner with bike racks refurbish awnings, considering orginal forms

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+Lisa Jones

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Katelyn Lucas


787-789 Halong Fish Market

Decorate faรงade with iconic ornament(s) to impact storefront impressions. Add window boxes to maintain consistence with adjacent building. Repair brickworks and repaint metal cornice

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794 Lim Bangkok Grocery

Replace old masonry facade with contemporary style materials Minimalism-style changes. Gives a clean, well-organized, more professional image of the building Creates attraction regarding its location (crossroads) and unique exterior features. Stylized windows give more character to the building; also creates interesting spaces for displaying products

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Design : Dominika Linowska Christian Rutherford

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Somerset/Chinatown  
Somerset/Chinatown  

Projects from the Workshop in Urban Studies/Heritage Conservation Fall 2009

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