Author Archives: yowLAB

Originally published in Centretown Buzz
by Jeff Salmon
December 11, 2014

It’s funny how a few words or a sentence can stay with you.

On paper it reads as a simple question—“You’re going to take public transit?”—but it was the inflection with which it was said that indicated both surprise and a little confusion. This has been one of the lasting memories from a recent trip to New Orleans, where our hosts asked how we would be getting around.

The question caught us off-guard because public transit seemed like the most logical and obvious way of getting around, aside from walking, which we would do plenty of anyway.

We came to realize that the public transit system in New Orleans was extremely limited and, at times, inconsistent. However, it was more than satisfactory in getting us around the city.

We discovered that the three streetcar lines were used primarily, though not exclusively, by tourists as a “kitschy” thing to do and the busses were for those with limited means—and us! Because of this, it seems that the residents of New Orleans have attached a stigma to taking public transit, preferring instead to drive or take a cab.

Reflecting on the trip, I considered how my views on public transit had been unconsciously shaped over the years. Truthfully, aside from trips abroad, my first experience with public transit came when I moved to Ottawa for university.

Growing up in Brampton, a suburb of Toronto, where cars remain the dominant form of transportation by design, I was conditioned to drive everywhere.

The city planning of suburbs makes it very challenging for public transit to compete with personal vehicles because of the distance between destinations and the connections required to get from Point A to Point B.

At the heart of the suburbs is a car-driven mentality where you don’t even think twice about grabbing the car keys to pick something up at the corner store—even if it is only a seven-minute walk away.

I fell victim to my environment growing up; however, my mentality quickly shifted when I arrived in Ottawa carless and living on a student’s budget. I began taking public transit out of necessity, but it wasn’t long before I realized that my OC Transpo adventures (and misadventures) had given me a thorough understanding of the city.

Not only did I know how to get to key destinations but I also knew what was on the way. For me, public transit was a great icebreaker, allowing me to get familiar with a new city, and this has held true on my travels as well.

Read More

Originally published in Centretown Buzz
by Jeff Salmon
August 22, 2014

Development—the dirty word that draws the ire of local residents who may otherwise be uninterested or uninvolved in their community.

Of course, this is an obvious generalization, because in every community there are a committed group of residents volunteering on community associations, or staying current with the events of the neighbourhood.

The threat of development, however, seems to be the rallying cry needed to grab the attention of the many residents who do not actively participate in community affairs on a regular basis.

It seems that the collective fear of development is a product of two things in particular—the precedent of uninspiring and insensitive projects around the city and a prevailing NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) attitude.

There are, of course, plenty of examples of condo and infill projects that have missed the mark, and it is natural to worry that the proposed development near you may as well. However, we should not overlook the increasing number of quality projects popping up in Ottawa.

It is easy to be pessimistic, but redevelopment can enact positive change within communities as well as increase the value of properties in the area over time.

Read More

Welcome to the yowLAB Film Festival discussion for our fourth film, Before Sunrise, directed by Richard Linklater. Our reviewer this month is Siu Hong Yu. His review/synopsis is included below.


  • If you have not yet watched the film, it is available for online rental on YouTube.
  • To contribute to the discussion, please feel free to use the comment section following the review.
  • You are also welcome to post links to your own reviews if you prefer to publish on your blog or website. Please make sure to link to this page on your end.
  • We also welcome guest contributions. Please contact us at if you would like to submit a review to be posted to the yowLAB blog.
  • Or tweet your comments @yow_LAB #yowLABFilmFest

We hope you enjoy the film and the discussion. Without further ado. . .

I fully enjoyed the last two documentaries featured at the yowLAB FilmFest but was wondering, hey, what about exploring what makes cities click through works of fiction? Maybe it would bring in a different audience. As it turned out, Sarah Gelbard, one of the co-directors of yowLAB, got that all figured out and was just looking for movie recommendations. So here it is, the first one that popped in my head. From condo shopping to city planning, walkability seems to be all the rage these days so why not spice it up with the possibility of finding your soulmate in the process. Bon spectacle!

A chance encounter between two strangers in a foreign city. They walk around, talk, fall in love, kiss and talk some more. Tonight is the only night and when the morning comes, the two go their separate ways, changed.

No, you won’t get any tree-hopping vampires nor old houses to restore here but what “drama” Before Sunrise may lack, it more than recoups with its heartfelt, timeless dialogues and genuine chemistry between our chatty young lovers Celine and Jesse, played by Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke.

Through their conversations on life, death, religion, feminism and of course, relationship and love, Jesse and Celine journey through their first date while taking us on a walking tour of Vienna. From the almost-kissing scene (above) inside a record store listening booth to the confessional faux-telephone calls (below) in Café Sperl, you know in your heart of hearts, this can’t just be a one night stand. They belong to each other!

By mapping out the location sequence, one may be disappointed that it is highly unlikely for the couple to hit all the spots in real life given the time frame. The Cemetery of the Nameless, for one, is practically in a suburb. Deep down, I think part of the allure of this impromptu romantic side trip is the carefree nature of a stroll where parks, bars, café‎s and grand museums are all within walking distance.

And then, on a makeshift bench out of a pile of pallets down a hidden alleyway, Celine ponders about what brings out the magic between two people. The answer lies not in the certainty but the attempt of understanding someone, of sharing something. Is it too much of a stretch to suggest the same goes with the messy business of urban planning?

Walkable cities are sexy.



This gallery contains 5 photos.

Originally posted on LANCR – ABRCN:
Public Service Announcement for LANCR’s Library as Space: A panel discussion ? The Library Association of the National Capital Region (LANCR) presents Library as Space:  A panel discussion. ? Join us for a timely and innovative discussion surrounding the theme Library as Space. Our panel, comprised of a planning…

Submitted to yowLAB
April 18, 2014
by Muktirajsinhji Chauhan

I write this to share my anguish at a mini urban design disaster happening right across my street and to defend an Ottawa development that has come to be derided quite a bit by many including a Federal minister calling it ‘not among NCC’s best work’ or some such words. Some may regard what is happening right now as insignificant, but I fear for the rest of the development in the neighbourhood and, many more such developments in future.

I am talking about the new condos at Le Breton Flats and the amusing situation of two sides of a street, Fleet Street, with buildings on either side of this rather well thought out street, which is part of a larger development of about 30 ha, being clad in two different coloured tiles.

Let me explain what is amiss here.

We all love traditional towns such as Quebec city, others few located on the east coast Canada and many in Europe. The reason we love them is because the public spaces of these towns are positively defined by buildings that are formed, or shaped, in response to the street and other public spaces and there is a harmony about the total built environment be it owing to the humane scale and heights of the buildings, harmonious street facades, materials, colours and texture of the building materials.

Simply put, the urban experience of a city gains when architecture lets go and individual buildings are less assertive, and instead they all add up to a harmonious whole. Anything else is like a box of assorted chocolates as a friend once put it, or worse with some gummies in there too competing for your attention.

Read More

Originally published in the Centretown Buzz
by Jeff Salmon
July 19, 2013

It is no secret that architecture has a special relationship with food, so I think it is worth highlighting a few “foodie” gems located in Centretown whose atmosphere distinguishes them from other restaurants.

Pressed. Photo: Kathryn Hunt

People, space, and food come together to create the atmosphere of a restaurant. Although food is likely the most important in determining the success of a restaurant—we all know of places where the service and/or space is lacking but we continue to go there because the food is great—when all three come together in a cohesive or complimentary way to create an atmosphere, you are usually in for a special experience. This is what I believe Union Local 613, The Whalesbone Oyster House, and Pressed offer to their patrons.

Read More