Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver


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Let’s celebrate literacy in September

BY JANICE BEXSON

From the time we wake up and until we go to sleep, literacy plays an integral part in everything that we do.

Literacy Is Life logo

Image source: decoda.ca

Whether we are checking the weather forecast, reading the instructions on how to make a breakfast shake, knowing the number of the bus that will take us to our destination, reading and answering emails and texts, ordering lunch and paying the bill, driving to a new destination, buying groceries, helping a stranger or tourist read a map to find a specific Air BNB, checking a bank statement, reading a story book to a child before bedtime or setting the alarm for tomorrow, we need and use basic literacy skills in order to achieve these activities in our work and in our daily lives.

However, these literacy skills are not just about learning how to read and write. They also involve knowing how well we use our literacy skills so that we can participate more fully in our community. Using existing and gaining new literacy skills increases our self-confidence, encourages connection to others, and expands our health, social and economic opportunities.

In British Columbia (B.C.), Decoda Literacy Solutions (Decoda) has declared September “Literacy Month.” Decoda supports community organizations in B.C. (including Collingwood Neighbourhood House) with funding, training and resources for a variety of literacy initiatives. Decoda’s “Literacy Is Life” campaign raises awareness about literacy and hosts a variety of activities throughout September.

As the lazy days of summer gently ease into fall, children return to school and adults generally shift from leisure to work mode, so September is the perfect month to think about how we can continue to foster literacy.

How can I foster literacy?

Well, there are many ways to involve literacy learning in your busy lives during September. A few examples include:

  • Play board games that inspire spelling, mathematical and logical thinking, such as Scrabble, UpWords, Qwirkle and Rush Hour.
  • Read a book out aloud, instead of silently.
  • Instead of using your GPS (global positioning system) to help you find a new destination, try using a good old paper map (the most updated copy you can find).
  • Challenge yourself and discover what 20 abbreviations or acronyms mean (e.g. GPS, ASAP, etc.)

Fostering our literacy skills involves constantly challenging ourselves, so that we continue to maintain and strengthen those skills. “Practice makes perfect”’ as the saying goes or “practice makes better,” as I prefer to say.

So, go ahead – this month, find out what literacy initiatives exist in the Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood, and take some time to visit Decoda’s website (www.decoda.ca) and view the Literacy Is Life campaign. Have a good Literacy Month!

Janice Bexson is the literacy outreach coordinator at the Collingwood Neighbourhood House.

Copyright 2018 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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Renfrew-Collingwood’s humble historic landmark

Collingwood Library

An extraordinary photo of Vancouver Public Library’s Collingwood branch as it appeared before its opening in early July 1951. The glass expanse at the front of the building has since been covered up in a subsequent renovation. Source: Vancouver Public Library, Special Collections, VPL 8856

BY JOHN MENDOZA

This story by John Mendoza reflects his passion for architecture. He brings to life a little-known gem in our neighbourhood with meticulous research and tremendous detail.
I love getting stories like these in my inbox.
John Mendoza tells us that this news story from October 2010 was used by Heritage Vancouver to help defend the library’s inclusion on the 2011 Top Ten Endangered Places list. The Vancouver Heritage Foundation lists Collingwood Library as one of its Places That Matter.
− Julie Cheng, editor

Located at the northwest corner of Kingsway and Rupert Street, the Collingwood branch of the Vancouver Public Library is a colourful hub of activity. However, this humble library branch holds a secret pedigree that elevates it above the 22 other branch libraries in Vancouver.

Unknown to most citizens of Vancouver, the architectural design of the Collingwood branch was designed by two celebrated British Columbian architects and could be the most important example of Modernist architecture found in East Vancouver.

Opened in July 1951, Collingwood Library’s design influenced its community in profound ways. Designed by local architects Harold Semmens and Douglas Simpson, the new building presented a friendly face to the neighbourhood.

In contrast to the imposing, old world bulk of the Carnegie branch at Hastings and Main, the design of Collingwood branch was firmly contemporary. The design reflects the spirit and work of famous Modernist architects: the glass expanse at the front alluded to Mies van der Rohe, the use of stone a reference to Marcel Breuer, the low ceiling entrance an influence of Frank Lloyd Wright. (According to Douglas Simpson’s son, Gregg Simpson, the architect studied under Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West in Arizona.)

Yet due to its “effective scaling and proportioning,” the building presented a welcoming and accessible face to the local community.

According to one source, shortly after its grand opening, Collingwood branch recorded the highest circulation of materials for kids of any branch library in the Vancouver library system. If the architects wanted to create an open and approachable civic building, they succeeded.

The impact of Semmens and Simpson’s branch library design was far-reaching; it influenced the local and even regional architectural scene. The new design quickly attracted the curious, and it soon turned into the most visited Modernist building in Vancouver.

Its influence can even be felt in successive library projects such as M. E. Uttley’s Okanagan Regional Library (1955) and Kenneth Sandbrook’s New Westminster Library (1958).

Because of their work on the Collingwood branch library, Semmens and Simpson were commissioned to design the new central branch of Vancouver Public Library in 1954. Debuting in 1957, their new Modernist library building at Robson and Burrard Street earned praise for its design, winning the 1958 Massey Medal for excellence in Canadian architecture.

Despite this illustrious history, there are no guarantees for this Modernist landmark in East Vancouver. Due to budgetary constraints, the library itself almost closed during the 1990s. Moreover, the history of preserving heritage buildings and Modernist architecture in Vancouver has not been positive. (Ironically, Semmens and Simpson’s award-winning 1957 central library design has lost much of its Modernist features due to a renovation in the last decade.)

In a recent conversation, Gregg Simpson complained about the lurid blue paint that has been slapped on the exterior of Collingwood branch library. Ideally, the original colour of the building should be retained. As Gregg emphatically states, “To restore it to the original colour would be a great service to his legacy.”

Early photos of the building contrasted with the current condition of the building suggest that successive renovations have not been respectful of its architectural status.

The Collingwood branch therefore deserves consideration for its significance in the architectural  design history of Vancouver. It exists as an east side example of local Modernist architecture designed by two acclaimed architects.

If it meets the criteria, the building should immediately be added to the Vancouver Heritage Registry as a rare example of Modernist architecture in East Vancouver.

As the library approaches its 60th anniversary in 2011, recognition is overdue. It would be nice if the library’s building design, layout and interior furnishings could be spruced up in the Modernist spirit, sensitive of course to the library staff and patron Renfrew-Collingwood’s humble historic landmark needs and to budgetary constraints.

Certainly the original colour should be restored and the signage could echo that of 1950s typography. At the very least, proper maintenance should be enforced.

For example, during Vancouver’s general civic strike of 2007, a vehicle crashed into the building, causing damage to the brick work. As of late August 2010, the brick-work damage remains and can still be seen just right of the main entrance.

The library and city should set an example for celebrating the city’s heritage architecture and design, especially in a humble  neighbourhood like Renfrew-Collingwood. Refurbishing this building and many other heritage landmarks in our area is an important step in the preservation of our shared history  and the first step of cultivating an identity for Renfrew-Collingwood. However, it will only occur if the whole community shares this aspiration and does its best to discuss this with others who can help in this goal.

John Mendoza has lived in Collingwood for almost 30 years. He is a teacher and aspiring writer. His interests include travel, reading, art and architecture. First published in the October 2010 issue of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News.

Copyright 2018 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

 


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Read On: Can you talk with someone without speaking?

Read On Word Search August 2018

Word Search: Body language

BY TONY WANLESS

Yes, you can.

When learning a language, it helps to know that there are other ways to “talk” with people without using your voice. Sign language, often used by those who can’t hear, is an example.

But the most common method is body language, which uses gestures or facial expressions to send information.

Although we mostly use speech for talking, we also use body language – much more than we realize. Often we combine the two for emphasis.

Body language is an ancient form of communication that is used by all animals, including human beings. It is commonly used to send messages to others without speaking or to amplify a spoken message.

Sometimes body language users don’t even know they are using it.

Have you ever waved goodbye to someone who is leaving? Stood tall when you were angry? Nodded your head to agree with someone? Used your hands to explain something?

You were “speaking” body language.

Most often, “talking” in body language is done with the head or the hands (or both).

But sometimes other body parts are used. Winking (closing and opening an eye quickly) to indicate a secret is one example.

Some body language is universal: A raised open hand is understood by most people to mean “stop” (but if it is softened or moved, it could also mean “Hello!”)

At other times, bowing your head is a sign of respect, nodding your head is a sign of agreement and shaking your head back and forth means no.

It can also be a sign of recognition, or a sign of acceptance.

Sometimes we move our heads to tell someone to move in a particular direction. Sometimes we only shift our eyes to signal they should look somewhere.

Opposite to this is the body language that shows anger or disapproval.

When angry, you may open your eyes and nostrils wide, or breath in deeply to fill your chest and appear “bigger” and more threatening.

Can you think of more examples of “body talking” from your country’s culture?

Definitions

gesture: the use of motions of the limbs or body as a means of expression
facial: of or relating to the face
emphasis: special consideration of or stress or insistence on something
amplify: to make larger or greater

Copyright 2018 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News