University of British Columbia Music Hall

The University of British Columbia (UBC) Vancouver campus is a great place to see modernist architecture. Most of the grounds were built after the second world war at the top of modernism’s popularity. The result are buildings like the music hall in today’s sketch.

Activities near the UBC Music Hall

The UBC Music Hall is on the way to several sights on the Vancouver grounds. Important sights close to the Music Hall are:

  • Nitobe Memorial Garden
    • Peaceful Japanese garden on the north western corner of campus.
  • Museum of Anthropology
    • The main home for artifacts from British Columbia. Also houses a range of artifacts from around the world.
  • Koerner’s Pub
    • The favorite social spot for masters students and those who can drink.
  • UBC Rose Garden
    • A beautiful garden with great views of Burrard Inlet and the Cascade Mountains.

History of UBC Grounds

UBC was established in 1908. The providence of British Columbia did not want to fund the campus. Student protests in the early 1920s forced the providence to fund construction. When classes started at the main Point Grey campus in 1925, they were held in temporary buildings.

The library and Iona Hall were finished in the 1920s. Funding again dried up for the campus in the 1930s due to the Great Depression though. The campus remained incomplete and was used for army housing in World War Two.

After World War 2 students began filling UBC’s classes. The providence also provided proper funding for the campus. This wave of construction in the 1950s and 1960s used Modernist styles.

Style of the UBC Music Hall

The UBC Music Hall uses a brutalist design. Brutalist buildings are primarily built with concrete. The name brutalism comes from the French word for raw concrete, beton brut.

This heavy use of concrete results in blocky buildings. The concrete forms also create geometric forms in the building. This geometry and the simplicity of concrete made it a favorite of modern architects.

Sketch Review: The 99% Invisible City by Roman Mars

Roman Mars is best known for his podcast 99% Invisible. In the 99% Invisible City*, Mars investigates how small things change cities. This ranges from manhole covers to tax codes. The result is a field guide to the many parts of cities.

This blog focuses on urban landscapes. As a result our focus is on the whole instead of the parts. The 99% Invisible City reminds us that this whole is made up of individuals and materials though.

Iconic Skylines

Vancouver BC Skyline

A skyline can be a city’s special feature. An arrangement of unique buildings to show a city’s character. Most skylines have a star building though.

Roman Mars choose to tell the story of the Transamerican Pyramid in San Francisco to show this. The building is an icon of the San Francisco skyline. Yet it almost did not happen.

At the time people felt the building was ugly. Yet the developers pushed on any ways. The result is a story of how a big risk led to a star building.


Mars has a chapter for the Boston City Hall. The building is famous, or infamous, for its brutalist style. This gives Mars a chance to talk about concrete.

Brutalism comes from the French word for concrete, brut. Concrete can be stark, but it also has a beauty. The individual parts of concrete never come together in the same way. The result is one-of-a-kind patterns and colors.

It was sad that Mars did not focus more on the story of Boston City Hall. Sticking to his theme he focused on the details of concrete though. The result is in interesting look into concrete as a material.

Portland Water Fountains

The 99% Invisible City has examples from across the world. It was nice to see several examples from cities in the Pacific Northwest though. Our favorite was in inclusion of the Benson Bubbler.

Downtown Portland and several other cities in Oregon have unique fountains. Jets of water come up from the center of four bowls. The jets fall back into the bowl and drain away. These are known as Benson Bubblers or Portland water fountains.

Mars includes the Benson Bubblers in the section on public water fountains. Designers were not sure of the best design for public fountains when they started appearing in Europe and the United States of America. Mars offers the Benson Bubbler as a first attempt at a sanitary fountain.

Wrapping up The 99% Invisible City

Mars pulls the reader into the everyday parts of a city. This celebrates the humble origins of the world’s cities. It also reminds the reader about the small ways we create the places we live.

It would be nice to have an overarching story to the chapters. Mars’ focus is compelling though. This book is a great guide for urban explorers. You can also find many of the stories in this book for free on Mar’s podcast 99% Invisible.

*This is an Amazon sponsored link.

Seattle Skyline from SW Dawson St. and 41st Ave. SW

West Seattle sits on a peninsula apart from Seattle. This gives it a special character. You can find this in The Junction neighborhood not far from this week’s drawing at SW Dawson Street and 41st Avenue SW.

Activities at the West Seattle Junction

The Junction is a large business area in West Seattle. It is focused on the intersection of California Avenue and Alaska Street. This sketch is on the backside of the Junction. The Junction has many interesting sights including:

  • All-Ways Crosswalk
    • One of a few all ways crosswalks in Seattle. At the intersection of California Avenue and Alaska Street people can cross diagonally on the cross signal.
  • Easy Street Records
    • Easy Street records sells records, CDs and other pop culture. They are famous for live performances by local and national artists.
  • Holy Rosary Cathedral
    • A large catholic cathedral built from brick. The spire of the Holy Rosary Cathedral is an important feature of the West Seattle Skyline.

History of the West Seattle Junction

West Seattle is the oldest neighborhood in Seattle. The Europeans who would found Seattle spent their first winter at Alki Point in West Seattle.

The neighborhood was isolated for the first 50 years of Seattle’s history. The Duwamish River and the marsh where the Duwamish River entered Elliot Bay cut off West Seattle from the rest of the city.

Then in 1907 two trolley lines made it easy to access West Seattle. The Junction neighborhood is where these two trolley lines crossed. Today plans for a light rail line would end in The Junction.

Design of Seattle’s Roads

Seattle is planned on a grid. Roads that run north south are called avenues. Roads that run east west are called streets. Seattle’s many hills and history have caused interesting changes to this plan though.

Seattle’s road names also have a cardinal direction. This matches one of 10 sections the city is divided into:

  • SW – West of the Duwamish river
  • S – South of Downtown and east of the Duwamish river
  • None – Downtown streets do not have a cardinal direction
  • E St. – East of downtown
  • E – Between the E St.s and the Montlake Cut
  • NE – From the Montlake Cut to the north edge of Seattle
  • N St. – Between Downtown and Lake Union
  • N – From Lake Union to Seattle’s north edge
  • W – Between Elliot Bay and the Fremont Cut
  • NW – From the Fremont Cut to north edge of Seattle

West Seattle Log House Museum

The West Seattle Log House Museum is in the Alki Beach area. The museum is the home of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society. The society collects historical records for Southwest Seattle ranging from items gifted by the local Duwamish tribe to current residents.

We would like to acknowledge that Seattle is on the traditional land of the first people of Seattle, the Duwamish People past and present and honor with gratitude the land itself and the Duwamish Tribe.

Activities near the West Seattle Log House Museum

The Log House Museum is a block from Alki Beach. This places it near the many sights on Alki Beach:

  • Alki Beach Park
    • Alki Beach is a sand and cobble beach that brings in many people in the summer time. It is a good place to relax and explore tide pools. It also has good views of the Olympic and Cascade Mountains over Puget Sound.
  • Denny Party Landing Site
    • The first landing site for the Europeans who founded Seattle was on Alki Beach. It is marked by an obelisk in Alki Beach Park.
  • Seattle Statue of Liberty
    • A replica of the Statue of Liberty in Alki Beach Park is a good place to meet people. The statue was donated by the Boy Scouts in 1952. It is one of around 200 replicas of the Statue of Liberty installed by the Boy Scouts.

Seattle’s Founding

Human settlements have been found in Seattle going back 4000 years. The Duwamish people inhabited the Seattle area when the European Denny Party arrived in 1851. The Duwamish tribe still maintains a longhouse and cultural center near the Duwamish river.

The Denny Party lived at Alki Point for a year. They then moved to what is now Downtown Seattle in 1852. They named their settlement Seattle after the chieftain of the Duwamish people at the time.


Rustic architecture uses simple local materials and building methods. It was a popular style in the United States in the first half of the 20th century. It is famous for its use in the United States’ national parks.

The building the Log House Museum is in was built in 1902 as the carriage house for a mansion. It is designed in the rustic style. It used Douglas Fir logs from the local site. It also has a fireplace and chimney built from beach stone.

The Nest at the University of British Columbia

The Nest at UBC is the new student union building on the University of British Columbia (UBC) grounds. Its primary space is the atrium on its west side. This is the subject of this week’s sketch. Restaurants and offices ring the atrium.

Activities near The Nest

The Nest is in the middle of the UBC grounds. This makes it a good place to start a walk on the UBC grounds from. Notable sights at UBC include:

  • Museum of Anthropology
    • The Museum of Anthropology collection is focused on the First Nations peoples of British Columbia. It also contains artifacts from other parts of the world.
  • Beatty Biodiversity Museum
    • The Beatty Biodiversity Museum contains UBC’s biological samples. This ranges from fossils to animals in formaldehyde.
  • Nitobe Memorial Garden
    • The Notibe Memorial Gardner is a Japanese garden on the UBC grounds. It is a peaceful place to rest when walking on the UBC grounds.
  • UBC Botanical Garden
    • The UBC Botanical garden is a living plant collection. It has plants from many parts of the world that can live in the Pacific Northwest.

History of The Nest

The new Student Union Building on the University of British Columbia grounds opened in 2015. It was built to give more room for student events. The old student union building did not have enough room for the current students.

Style of The Nest

The Nest uses a neomodern design. This is seen in the plain concrete columns holding up the structure. They grow on the line-based forms of modernism in a way only possible with contemporary building methods.

Neomodernism is a continuation of modernism. It developed in the late 1990s in response to Post-Modernism. Neomodern designs are popular in current public and corporate buildings.

These designs use the simple lines and limited decoration of modernism. They also use new materials and technologies like computer drafting though. The result is what some people call the Apple Store look.

Winter 2021 Sketch: Monroe Avenue

The winter 2021 sketch is the painting of Monroe Avenue in Corvallis, Oregon. Many Oregon State University (OSU) employees reached out to say how much they appreciated this image now that they are working remotely.

All cards and prints are produced on card stock. Cards are 5.5″ x 4.25″. Comes with painting name and location. Prints are 8.5″ x 11″. Prints include the post for the sketch on the back side of the print and artist’s signature.

Monroe Avenue

Monroe Avenue is on the northern edge of the OSU grounds. It is home to many businesses. The avenue connects the OSU grounds to downtown Corvallis. In this view you can see the county courthouse tower in downtown.

Business on Monroe Avenue

It is home to many business serving students, faculty and staff at OSU. Some business on Monroe Avenue include:

Many are open for takeout. Hopefully, they will be fully open soon.

Sights near Monroe Avenue

The businesses on Monroe Avenue are great places to rest after exploring the OSU grounds. Some notable things to see on the OSU grounds include:

  • Reser Stadium
    • Home of the OSU Beaver football team. You can buy sports swag across the street at the Beaver Store.
  • OSU Historical District
    • The historic core of the OSU campus. This area has good examples of early 20th century architecture.
  • Memorial Union (MU)
    • The historic student union building that is part of the OSU Historical District. The MU has Java II coffee shop, cafeteria and a lot of seating.
  • Irish Bend Covered Bridge
    • Covered bridge in OSU’s research pasture. A good walk from Monroe avenue.

Gas Works Park

Gas Works Park sits on the north end of Lake Union in Seattle, Washington. The park is famous for the ruins of the gas works that used to operate on the site. Gas Works Park is also a good location to park and go walking or biking.

Activities in and near Gas Works Park

Gas Work’s Park is in the middle of Seattle. This makes it a good place to see several Seattle’s sights and neighborhoods.

  • Kite Hill
    • Kite Hill is on the park’s west side. This human made hill was created from construction debris and covered with soil.
    • You can see kits flying from the hill throughout the year on winds from Lake Union. The hill is also a good place to watch boats and sea planes on Lake Union.
  • Wallingford Business Area
    • Take the stairs across the street from the park and walk up Wallingford Avenue to the Wallingford Business District. The Wallingford Business district is filled with restaurants, cafes and stores.
    • This is a 1.4 mile (2.2 km) walk round trip from Gas Works Park.
  • Fremont Troll
    • Under the bridge to the west of Gas Work’s Park you will find the Fremont Troll. This is a good place to take a photo.
    • This is a 1.6 mile (2.5 km) walk round trip from Gas Works Park.
  • Burke-Gilman Trail
    • The Burke-Gilman Trail is a 20-mile bike and pedestrian trail that runs from Seattle’s western edge in Ballard to Blyth Park in the City of Bothell. Gas Works Park is 2.2 miles (3.5 km) from the trail’s western end. The park is a good place to park when biking on the trail.
  • Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop
    • The Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop is a 6.2 (10 km) trail round Lake Union. Gas Works Park is on the northern part of the loop. The trail is a good way to see houseboats, downtown and other historic sites.

History of Gas Works Park

Gas Works Park opened in 1975. The park is famous as the first park in the United States of America that kept an industrial ruin. Before this industrial sites where removed, and parks built over them.

The design company for the Park, Richard Haag and Associates, learned that the gas plant on the site was the last one in the United States of America. They suggested that the old gas plant be kept as part of the park. After some resistance, the city approved the plan.

Style of Gas Works Park

Gas Work’s Park is special because it was one of the first parks in the world to use industrial architecture outside of an industrial site. This began a new architecture style that made industrial architecture common in ever day use.

Oregon State University’s Bexell Hall

Bexell Hall is a good example of the architecture in the Oregon State University (OSU) Historical District. The historic buildings in the middle of trees make a nice place to walk. The building is also close to the businesses on Monroe Avenue.


Bexell Hall is near many sights positioned in the heart of the OSU campus.

  • Campus Way
    • This road runs through the OSU campus. It is lined with historic buildings from the 1920s and 1930s. The campus way parking lot at 14th is a good place to start walking.
  • Fairbanks Art Gallery
    • Shows art by artists, faculty and students. Covers a wide range of mediums and kinds of art.
  • Monroe Avenue
    • The main business area next to campus. Has restaurants, bars and coffee shops if you want to eat or drink.
  • Memorial Union
    • The Memorial Union, known as the MU, is the social gathering spot on campus. It includes a coffee shop, seating and a cafeteria.


Bexell Hall was completed in 1922. It was designed by John Virginius Bennes. Bennes designed many buildings on the OSU campus.

The hall was originally called the Commerce Hall since it housed the School of Commerce. The hall was renamed in 1966 to Bexell for John A. Bexell. John A. Bexell was the founder and head of the School of Commerce from 1908 to 1931.

Bexell Hall housed the School of Commerce and later the College of Business until 2014. The College of Business moved to Austin Hall in 2014. Today Bexell Hall houses the College of Liberal Arts.


Bexell Hall uses a Neo-Renaissance design. Geometry and symmetry are important in Neo-Renaissance design. We can see this in the symmetrical layout of the windows in Bexell Hall.

Neo-Renaissance architecture was cothe mmon in the United States in the early 20th century. It is used in many buildings on OSU’s Corvallis campus.

Stories of Urban Life in 2020

2020 was a bad year for everyone. Disease covered the world. Economic disturbances took many peoples’ work and businesses. Social wrongs were shown again and again.

Streets were full of ideas to address these ills though. Roads were shut to cars for use as socially distanced walking and dinning spaces. Protestors took to the streets to call for changes to institutions like the police, social services and renting.

This urban read collects some of these stories of urban challenges and ideas to address them.

Urban Spaces and Design

Urban life was defined by COVID-19 in 2020. Social norms, rules and design of urban spaces were directed at responding to the disease.

Social Justice and the Economy

COVID-19 also directed public focus to social and economic ills. People answered by protesting and calling for changes to urban social institutions and norms.

Personal Stories

COVID-19 required social distance between people. It also turned people’s focus to the important people in their lives.

Parsons Gardens

Parson’s Garden on top of Queen Anne hill gives a quite spot to take it easy. The garden is on a loop that runs about the top of Queen Anne. The loop offers views of Seattle, Elliot Bay and the surrounding mountains.

Activities near Parsons Gardens

Parson’s Garden is on Highland Drive in Queen Anne. Queen Anne is the highest hill in Seattle at 456 feet (139 meters) above sea level. This gives the area great views of the Seattle area.

Some places to visit on Queen Anne include:

  • Kerry Park
    • From Parson’s Garden walk away from the water for four blocks. Kerry Park is on the right. Has a great view of downtown Seattle and Mount Rainier when clear.
  • Queen Anne Avenue and W. Galer Street
  • Queen Anne Loops
    • There is no trail around Queen Anne Hill. Many routes are available depending on how long you want to walk. Queen Anne Boulevard is a 6-mile road and pathway. Queen Anne is also a good place to walk public stairways.

History of Queen Anne

Humans have lived on Queen Anne for around 3000 years. The local Duwamish people had seasonal homes on Queen Anne. Europeans arrived on Queen Anne in the 1850s.

The hill is named for the Queen Anne style homes first created here in the 1880s and 1890s. Queen Anne architecture is a form of Victorian Architecture. Today almost no Queen Anne style homes remain.

Parson’s Garden was donated to Seattle in 1956. It was created by the Parson’s family for their home.

Style of Parsons Gardens

Parsons Gardens uses naturalism for its design. It create the sense of a forest clearing with a lawn at its middle. Trees and bushes rise around the lawn. The garden has a Japanese influence as many of the plants are from Japan such as Japanese Cherries, Hinoki Cedars and Azaleas.