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New site: Johnson Street Bridge DOT org

I’m involved with Mat Wright and Ross Crockford in a new website, Johnson Street Bridge. Please check it out.

And please take a look at my first blog post there, Bad Reason, 1, subtitled “Bad reasons to spend money on JSB replacement.” I worked up some steam about what I consider bad civic leadership around here, too.

Bottom line regarding my argument in Bad Reason, 1: Whether ugly (“a brute”) or beautiful, the Johnson Street Bridge is interesting – and that’s the most important thing for a creative, urban economy. Just take a look at the amazing photos on Flickr, tagged with johnsonstreetbridge, for an inkling of the bridge’s ability to offer up interestingness.

Nothing is worse than boring – that’s what the suburbs are for. Whatever will replace the Johnson Street Bridge will be massively and blightingly boring, and therefore an affront to Victoria’s urban character.

One wonders why our civic leaders are so intent on suburbanizing this city.

Below, a photo by Victoria flickreena ngawangchodron (hope she doesn’t mind being referenced by me like this, but it’s such an evocative shot):
Photo of Johnson Street Bridge in Victoria BC


  1. “Nothing is worse than boring – that’s what the suburbs are for. Whatever will replace the Johnson Street Bridge will be massively and blightingly boring, and therefore an affront to Victoria’s urban character.”

    How are you so sure any replacement will be boring? Personally, I think the current bridge is ugly and nothing but a stain on our skyline like the View Towers. I’m in favour of replacing it. But I’m also all for proper disucussion and debate about the merits of refurbishing the current bridge vs replacing it. You seem to agree that the current bridge is ugly but assume any other bridge will be boring? Do you have any details to give merit to those assumptions?

    Yes the bridge is an icon of the city, but really, any bridge that gets put there will be. And why can’t a new bridge be both interesting and beautiful? It can’t be very hard to do better than the current bridge. What are people so bent to “save” the current bridge when it is so ugly? Just because the engineer who designed it is famous for a different bridge he made? It makes no sense to me. Besides, why couldn’t a new design also pay homage to the old blue bridge, but not be ugly? There is lots of room for improvement in my opinion and the only reasons to keep the old bridge seem to be misplaced sentiment, not logic.

    Comment by velvety — July 24, 2009 #

  2. Hey Graham, thanks for commenting – here, and on the new Johnson Street Bridge DOT org site! I’ll have to answer in more depth a bit later, perhaps. For now, let me say I actually don’t think the JSB is ugly – I wasn’t married to its aesthetic until it was threatened. Now I’m thinking that it needs preservation, simply for the sake of variety. The City issued a press release this afternoon (see this PDF): they’ve retained an engineering firm, MMM Group Limited, whose projects are all stultifyingly highway-oriented (do take a look at their Projects page and pull down for “bridges” – ick, Spadina Expressway?) It’s a company that’s internationally known for its pro-P3 work (and I’m in favor of P3s, generally, but am surprised – to say the least – that a pro-NDP council favors a corporate entity that pushes P3s strongly: I thought that was the “other” party’s position? 😉 ).

    Anyway, the appearance of MMM Group Limited gives me little hope for innovative design.

    Further, there just won’t be time. The Federal grant guidelines decree that the project has to be completed between November and February – that’s an awfully small window, and it’s already the end of July. Stunning, iconic new design? Do not hold your breath – unless you have death wish.

    You know, just to reinforce what an old bridge can be, take a look at the photos of an exhibition currently on view in Hamburg – the European city with the most bridges (2,500 bridges in Hamburg, at last count).

    The most stunning pictures are of bridges built in the heyday of 19th century industrialization – of which our early 20th century Joseph Strauss bascule bridge is an example (and by the way, the only remaining example in Canada west of Ontario). Why that should be demolished – when the fucking Bay Bridge really should be replaced – is beyond me. Why destroy the JSB? Why not replace the Bay Bridge, which needs it?

    As for ugly, here’s ugly:,1020,1589479,00.jpg (from the Hamburg exhibition)
    – in the sense that the “Gothic” portal sets up a dissonance with the elegant scrolls emanating from its …er, rear. But that’s what urban interestingness is all about – a bit of contrast.

    So, on that note: oh my – ain’t it interesting, even if it’s ugly? Replacing interestingness with a highway bridge put together by MMM Group Limited is not my idea of a worthy alternative – and I’m totally convinced that the city won’t come up with anything better than that. Just look at the Save-on-Foods-Memorial-Centre/ Arena. What a sad excuse in design that is – and it’s underbuilt, too.

    Comment by Yule — July 24, 2009 #

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