Articles published in FOCUS Magazine, Victoria, Canada

On this page you can find page scans converted to PDF of all my FOCUS Magazine articles, starting with November 2006. There’s a “bonus” item from October 2006 — the letter to the editor at FOCUS, which got me the job of writing for the magazine on a monthly basis.

Update: I published my final FOCUS article in the June issue.

Note: these PDFs take a long time to load. Don’t try loading more than one at a time — you’ll likely get a blank page if you do. (Update: all articles are now on Scribd, and load quickly/ easily.) These documents may not be used without permission by third parties for any purpose. They remain © Yule Heibel.

There are also two other articles of mine on VibrantVictoria’s articles page, which you can read online.


Clicking on the link will bring up a PDF of the article, as scanned from the magazine pages.


June 2009: Blue Bridge Blues Economics, aesthetics and history collide in considerations of whether or not to keep or not to keep our famous (Joseph Strauss built) Johnson Street Bridge, also known as the blue bridge.

May 2009: Embracing complexity and density [in Victoria BC] Smart cities reject wasteful urban sprawl and grow up instead. (Note: this article was published with errors/ deletions at the beginning. I made corrections by hand on the paper copy before scanning it to a PDF.)

April 2009: It’s the people, stupid Inspired by Seattle-based community organizer Jim Diers’ presentation in Victoria BC early in 2009, this article makes the case that urban density is good for cities: it’s good for their economies and for our social ecologies.

March 2009: Victoria’s Urban Forest Urban forests are more than just trees in cities: they are the complete ecosystem, including the trees and understory shrubbery and plants, soil conditions, water drainage, and wildlife. Victoria has urban forests in its core neighborhoods, but needs to do more to enrich ecosystems within downtown.

February 2009: Housing 2.0 Using the Wikipedia model, along with modular housing, to solve homelessness: As web 2.0 development has shown, people are able to unleash creativity and energy when they see how to move forward and get things done from the bottom up.

January 2009: Building bridges and start-up muscle in Victoria Technology, the arts and the built environment all have crucial roles to play in connecting the people and ideas that create a vibrant, thriving city. (This article was inspired by Ben Casnocha’s article, Start-up Town, about Boulder, CO.)

December 2008: An argument for prescriptive zoning Restrictive zoning may promise certainty, but at what cost to the future? This article makes the case for PRE-scriptive (not RE-strictive) zoning.

November 2008: The problem with James Bay James Bay and Jane Jacobs provide food for thought about how restricting usage within designated zones may damage the fabric of our neighbourhoods and city.

October 2008: Smart twits? A user guide… New media technologies that focus on making voters smarter offer local politicians an alternative to hitting the panic button in order to win.

September 2008: Simplicity of losing, complexity of winning Name-calling and nitpicking do not a successful city make. Time for a non-partisan, *winning* approach at City Hall.

August 2008: Province hits cities with green wave New provincial legislation challenges cities to move toward greener practices in order to “earn” their funding. How can Victoria make some serious change?

July 2008: Why a bowling green makes sense One of the key downtown blocks is being re-envisioned — unfortunately without a unique and quirky landmark.

June 2008: Let’s demo co-development The synergistic power of providing physical space for the airing of new ideas helps nurture the type of economic development advocated by Jane Jacobs.

May 2008: Overdue: rethinking our library The February to March lockout exposed library board dysfunction. But perhaps it’s about time we thought about a new building, as well.

April 2008: Who’s your heritage? For true heritage value, buildings must earn their keep — not just look pretty.

March 2008: Victorian Fables: Does Victoria have an urban planning blindspot? Alice in Wonderland’s Queen suggested that repeating something often enough makes it true — but that’s not good advice when it comes planning cities.

February 2008: Ditch height restrictions; adopt “good design” prescriptions — A survey of downtown’s landscape shows that restrictive zoning is bad for our savannah brains.

January 2008: The death of a good idea — A creative plan for a downtown location for the AGGV is toast. What went wrong?

December 2007: Not just another brick in the wall — The greenwall proposed for Gateway Green would reconnect art and architecture

November 2007: Victoria’s genius locus: perspectives from the water — If the Belleville Street task force got it wrong, what’s needed to make it right?

October 2007: The Belleville plan: it’s all wrong — Victoria ought to be building its cultural tourism infrastructure; this plan doesn’t do it.

September 2007: Of ducks and decorated sheds (original title: “Sheds meaning like a duck”: what we need from buildings)

August 2007: Biophilic design: taking love to the street — A modest proposal for an urban intersection (View & Vancouver Streets), which argues that while we know regular exposure to nature is good for us, we perfect designs that keep nature out, sometimes even erase our awareness of it.

July 2007: A soft-core view of Victoria — wherein the author focuses on qualities of built form & cities, using theories of evolutionary psychology and categories developed by Grant Hildebrand to analyze what attracts and repels.

June 2007: AGGV downtown: will it fly? — The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria is on a space mission: desiring to launch a 25,000-square-foot satellite into downtown’s orbit, its dream is fuelled by a developer’s rocket, which could fly — or, depending on economic forecast and/or political weather, crash in council chambers.

May 2007: Spatial micro-climates: how to make a corner — In terms of street vibrancy, the higgledy-piggledy organic street layout of older cities such as Seville, Spain may have a natural advantage over the hard-edged grid of newly-built Victoria. What can we do to compensate?

April 2007: The “right height” debate — The recent approval by city council for a 24-storey building as part of the redevelopment of the Bay site was given as a reward for the developer’s commitment to preserving the circa 1921 Edwardian Classical Temple style edifice. But DRA‘s Rob Randall says we still haven’t had the critical dialogue about downtown height and density.

March 2007: Private affairs in public spaces — Have parts of downtown Victoria — Centennial Square for example — been conceived as though their creators thought the best way to experience them would be from the privacy of a moving car?

February 2007: Discovering Changes — Would the architect of Victoria’s most charming and celebrated buildings be rolling in his grave if he knew his work had helped encourage decades of city-visioning based on avoiding change?

No Jan.07 column (the Victoria by Design section was entirely devoted to the Independence Settlement Project)

December 2006: Consuming Downtown — What brings people downtown? (with special thnx to Pet Clark…)

November 2006: The fine line between street vibrancy and dead zones — Q: How many Victorians does it take to change a light bulb? A: None. They like the old one.

October 2006 “Bonus”: Why the Corazon is a great addition to the street (Not an article, but a letter-to-the-editor that landed me the job of writing a monthly column at FOCUS Magazine.)

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