In front of the main window of North Van’s new Polygon Gallery.
Or maybe that is the art.
This excellent YouTube video provides a perfect way to occupy a dry day in Vancouver~printing t-shirts on manhole covers. The “Raubdrukerin” group (that roughly translates to “Pirate Printer”) does this in Europe, going to cities and searching out surfaces to ink and create bags and t-shirts right in the street.
What are the picks for the best surfaces to print in Vancouver? There’s the manhole cover “Memory” by First Nations artists Susan Point and Kelly Cannell for starters. This design was the winner in a 2004 City of Vancouver design competition for storm sewer and manhole covers. The design depicts the life of a frog from egg to tadpole to frog, and is a very apt reference for sustainability and the importance of water.
The YouTube video shows the technique for printmaking from city infrastructure.
It was a perfect item for visual media: the King Tide in Vancouver last week that resulted in shortline flooding around the region.
Perhaps most dramatic was the flooding along the North False Creek shoreline at David Lam Park. (Global, above, featured some footage of exactly that area, with the small pavilion, shown above, immersed in water.)
What the coverage didn’t say was that this immersion was by design. The landscape architect of the park, Don Vaughan, intended for the highest tides to come above the walkway so that the seawall would normally be closer to the waterline than would be the case if it was raised to remain dry in the extreme case of a king tide.
Don named the pavilion “Marking High Tide” – and tells the story here. Notably, there is a large stone in the centre which allows the viewer to see the tide change from hour to hour. It’s placed so that, at the highest water mark, it will just be completely covered. (Presumably, the stone will have to be raised to acknowledge sea-level rise over time.)
It allows us urban dwellers who live in a designed environment where nature is pretty much controlled or mitigated in every respect to be aware of the natural cycles that still prevail. Don write a small poem to that effect which is inscribed in the curved beam at the top:
“As the moon circles the earth the ocean responds with the rhythm of the tides.”
New, to me at least, in Stanley Park. The piece is unsigned, but looks like THIS prolific artist.
Bridge Warming is a free event created by CityStudio students in partnership with VIVA Vancouver.
Lights, music and extreme coziness…
Twenty students from SFU Semester in Dialogue at CityStudio have partnered with VIVA Vancouver to create engaging and thought-provoking projects underneath the Cambie Bridge. Bridge Warming shows the potential of Vancouver’s covered spaces for year-round events.
-Join us for an interactive jam session at our pop up performance space.
-Share your thoughts and creativity on our participatory chalk walls.
-Visit our outdoor living room for sharing skills, books and stories.
-Hang out in Vancouver’s first large-scale public blanket fort (Feat. complimentary hot cocoa)
-Discover how native plants contribute to urban biodiversity in a miniature cityscape garden.
-At sundown, Hfour brings awe and wonder back to our oversaturated world. Be immersed in projections and lighting, alongside live music to end off the night.
Everyone is welcome at our free event
Underneath the south side of the Cambie Bridge, between 1st and 2nd Avenue – near Olympic Village Station
In an area of light industrial and old buildings, near 5th and Columbia, things can look dowdy. Except for several businesses that have taken advantage of Vancouver’s talented mural artists. Note the bench, which apparently attracts unwanted smokers.
The sign implores: “Please don’t smoke here. Thank you. Artists with allergies.”
As usual, click to enlarge.
A totally unscientific survey of mural trends in New South Wales: I didn’t see a single “pictorial” mural, like the almost-photographic assemblages of faces, animals and scenes that have become so common in Vancouver (many of them seemingly scaled-up, projected and painted from Photoshop images). Instead, abstract patterning seems to be the norm…
A lane in Katoomba, the largest town in the Blue Mountains about 100 km. west of Sydney
Two in trendy Newtown (Inner-West Sydney). The graffiti-like quality of the second one seems to invite additions – maybe this is the idea, that the art evolves organically and isn’t “owned” by anyone, which would fit with Newtown’s radical aesthetic.
Price Tags Vancouver has previously written about the “Fight For Beauty” art exhibition hosted by Westbank developments at a downtown hotel. The theme of this free exhibition is the “fight” it takes to create and build cities and communities as interpreted by the art. There’s sculpture and film, and there are also models of some of the projects that Westbank developments have undertaken in their work in Vancouver.
In a direct juxtaposition to this exhibition Vancouver Art Gallery’s “Offsite” space on West Georgia has artist Asim Waqif installing a work he calls “Salvage” made up of the items that Dorothy Woodend of the Tyee calls “the remains of obliterated houses and destroyed buildings, the refuse and discards of a city in the midst of wholesale change. The construction largely resembles a M.C. Escher drawing come to 3D life.”
The artist has created an intriguing and curious collection out of the ordinary stuff found at construction sites and the transfer station including “old doors, dead keyboards, the remains of a shingled bit of roofing, glass jars and bottles, a bicycle and what looks like a stuffed chicken. ” Somehow there is harmony out of the use of these objects that resemble interiors that are strangely familiar and somewhat comforting.
But the exhibit also talks to our trashing of materials in demolishing the old for the new, and has a direct allegory to the loss of our urban fabric and our acceptance of new shiny replacements for that which was at one time familiar. As Mr. Waqif observes in the City of Vancouver “residents, businesses and institutions threw away approximately 351,000 tonnes of garbage“. His exhibition hints at what we have lost, and what could be recycled. It’s an interesting allegory, in the face of buffed new buildings defining Vancouver’s “modern times”.
A reason to be in Sydney in October…
The cliff walk from Bondi Beach to Tamarama, the first bay to the south, is dotted with sculpture each spring.
21st Anniversary Bondi Exhibition | 19 October – 5 November 2017
Sculpture by the Sea returns to the Bondi Beach to Tamarama Beach coastal walk as the world’s largest free to the public sculpture exhibition. See the spectacular coastal walk transformed into a 2km long sculpture park over three weeks featuring 100 sculptures by artists from Australia and across the world.
The website has gems from past shows. Having seen several of them, I thought that this year’s set made less use of the spectactular venue – was less site-specific – than previous ones. My favourites this year:
“Transporter” by Dale Miles
“Are We There Yet?” by Jane Gillings.
After spending 10 days in Sydney, I promise not to complain about Vancouver traffic congestion for at least a year ….
Irony Alert: the barrier fencing – an addition that most heritage advocates and others feared – became the needed justification for the restoration of Burrard Bridge’s best heritage feature.
More backstory: Burrard Bridge was over-designed – at least for its time. Since it was being built during the Depression of the 1930s, it could have justifiably been much more utilitarian.
But its origins were in the late 1920s, as another recommendation of the Bartholomew Plan, where the bridge would be a gateway to the west side, to the downtown and, from the water, to False Creek, even though that was still an industrial basin. As a public works project, it was a chance to make an optimistic statement about the city.
So Sharp and Thompson, architects, were commissioned to come up with something special in the Art Deco styling of the time, with abundant references to the emerging metropolis of the West Coast, its nautical history, and subtly, a homage to the soldiers of The Great War, some for whom, like Major J.R. Grant, the bridge’s engineer, it was still a recent and personal memory.
Given the view to English Bay, even the concrete balustrades were designed so that at a certain speed for automobiles, the railings would seem to disappear.
Don Luxton, the heritage consultant, recognized the obligation to be rigorous in meeting heritage standards for such a singular engineering and architectural work, even at additional cost. The balustrades had to be completely rebuilt, and testing for the new ones was extensive. Three different precast concrete companies were commissioned. Details had to be consistent with the original design, with a high level of finish (even ironically the original rough finishes in the form work, done with wooden planks.)
But there was no budget for the concrete posts and lamps that decorated the balustrades and provided pedestrian lighting. Still, the bridge as much as possible would be restored to its original look … until those concerned with suicide prevention convinced council that barrier fencing (known as ‘means prevention’) should be added to the bridge. The proposal horrified some, who could see that such a structure would profoundly alter the look and feel of the bridge deck. Council, after hearing concerns but sticking with the requirement for a barrier, told stakeholders to come back with a design all could live with.
The first schemes were not good. “We hated all of them,” says Luxton. “Guantanamo” was the description of architect Roger Hughes on the Urban Design Panel, dismissing the idea of a long horizontal fence of metal bars. Without some vertical breaks, there would be no relief, no rhythm against the skyline.
But there was a solution: if the original posts supporting the lamps were added, the fence itself would not dominate so much. And so the money was found to do so.
Luxton gives credit to James Emery of Iredale Architecture, the architect on the bridge project, with doing a masterful job of making the fence work. He designed the lightest, most delicate structure that could possibly work, even though it was a challenge to construct because of its very lightness. (The bars, for instance, are set far enough part to allow cameras to get a clear shot.)
The result in the end was better than everyone thought it would be. Some even believe it’s part of the original design.
Don Luxton, the heritage consultant for the Burrard Bridge project, reflects back on how we got here – and how we almost didn’t.
There was no doubt the Burrard Bridge and its intersections were going to change. That had been true since the 1970s when the expectation was that the intersections should function as much as possible like freeway interchanges – as did the Granville Bridge.
At the beginning of the 1990s, the City purchased the ‘Kettle of Fish’ restaurant and some adjacent land at the southeast corner of Pacific and Burrard in order to construct a separate exit ramp that would seamlessly join with Hornby, rather like the Seymour ramp does on the Granville Bridge. An upgrade of the southern intersection maintained as much as possible the freeflow of traffic on curving arterials.
A capital plan passed by voters approved $50 million for reconstruction and seismic upgrade of the bridge – which was by now visibly deteriorating. Pieces of concrete would fall off; rebar was exposed; sidewalks were eroding.
There was sufficient money to serve cyclists by widening the bridge with outriggers if council considered that a priority. In response, the heritage community (being led by people like Don Luxton) sounded the alarm. Such a change to the physical look of the bridge would hopelessly compromise one of the only art deco bridges in North America.
But one of the NPA councillors (yup, me) concerned with both changes in the look of the bridge and unnecessary costs for widening convinced a bare majority of his colleagues to at least try out an experiment: close one of the lanes for cyclists to see if that could work.
It didn’t. The 1996 closure, pushed forward without sufficient planning and notification, was a media gong show. Cell phones were just coming in, and affluent motorists, stuck in traffic, had time to call up the mayor’s office with their harshly stated opinions.
While the one-week experiment was a considered a failure (even though traffic, by the end of the week, had adjusted fairly well), it at least stopped any proposal for widening the bridge until further study has been done. And boy, were there studies – seemingly endless ideas for different configurations and even additional crossings.
However, a study around 2000 of all the False Creek crossings concluded that cycling and pedestrian lanes were needed in both directions on each side of the bridge. In the meantime, costs were escalating: outriggers went from $13 to $60 million in price. But no decision was made – until a new council decided to try another lane-closure experiment:
By the time the Gregor Robertson’s Vision council tried new trial bike lanes in 2009, Price believes a few important things had changed.
The city had created a network of non-separated lanes on side streets, helping to support a growing community of cyclists who now wanted to use the bridge safely.
The engineering and planning departments also had a better understanding of how to integrate bike lanes without completely infuriating drivers.
And the people at City Hall knew that they needed to do a much better job of informing the public about the change.
All through the debate, Luxton and the heritage community were vocal in their insistence on not widening the bridge, reinforcing a change that was already occurring in the engineering department. As Don notes, “Engineers are not monolithic in their thinking; they can be extraordinarily creative, given the mandate and resources.”
Finally they were. The bridge would be have to be seismically upgraded, the deterioration addressed, bike lanes and sidewalks installed on both sides of the right-of-way, traffic capacity maintained, intersections redesigned for safety and separation – and all within in the original footprint of the span.
And of course, the heritage of the bridge enhanced, to bring it back more to the original look. Except for one thing: there was no money to reinstall the decorative pedestrian lights and the posts on which they sat.
“A civic triumph.”
That’s how Don Luxton, the heritage consultant for the Burrard Bridge project, characterizes the results. And as both a heritage activist and professional consultant on over 30 years of projects, he has earned his perspective.
Don was brought in as part of the team with Associated Engineering, the lead consultants for the bridge project. But he emphasizes that everyone, from city engineers to civic leaders and advisers, were determined to bring back a deteriorating piece of infrastructure to its former glory.
“From day one,” says Don, “we looked at it as a heritage conservation project. Every intervention was assessed against heritage standards and guidelines for engineering works.”
Burrard Bridge wasn’t ‘value engineered’ to death. When resources were needed, money was found – and people have noticed. “Almost unanimously, Vancouverites tell me that it has turned out better than they expected, “says Don. “It feels more civilized, more European. Pedestrians in particular no longer feel shoved to one side of a highway bridge.”
“From an engineering, traffic safety, functionality, heritage, aesthetic and civic perspective, I’d give it an A plus. It has achieved everything and more than we expected.”
This week, we’ll explore the heritage aspects of the Burrard Bridge with Don – and how the project has raised the bar for every subsequent intervention.
Near Comox and Bute, in the Nelson Park gardens, is a housing complex for the birds and the bees. Like the rest of the West End, there’s a mix of high-rise, duplex and very high density (in the form of stacked bamboo rods, hanging from a silver carabineer).
All to support the teeming bee-industrial area to the north of the BeeTropolis.
Everyone has an opinion on those magnificently large and some say rather strange sparrows that hold down Olympic Square designed by Myfanwy MacLeod. And yes, apparently they were inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds 1963 horror film. As Kevin Griffin with the Vancouver Sun observes ” the shells have become significantly damaged, especially on the male bird. They are both used as ramps by skateboarders and bicycle riders, and people regularly climb over the two structures, which are 4.5 metres tall.” The tail of the male sparrow has been badly compromised and is no longer water proof, and the steel frames of the birds will be replaced with more durable aluminum. If the success of a public art project is the degree of tactile interaction that users have with it, the sparrows have been a big hit.
A Barcelona engineer who is on the committee for the rebuilding and reproofing of the famous promenade Las Ramblas came down to see The Birds public art work. He immediately referenced a favourite, the “El Gato de Botero” bronze which is now housed in Raval Park and is beloved by children and adults alike for his proportions and his rather hulking anatomy. The Gato is also climbed over and played with, but is made of much sturdier material. While polystyrene was used for the shell of the birds, the feet were cast in bronze and have had no damage.
Both birds will be taken down this fall and replaced in time for the-wait for it- 27th International Ornithological Congress next August. The City’s Public Art manager estimates the repairs at $425,000 which will be covered by a reserve fund for public art maintenance. Larger paving stones will also be installed below the male sparrow’s tail to reduce the likelihood of the public art continuing use as a skateboard and bike ramp.
As the artist states “People, especially kids, love to climb on stuff. You can’t stop people from being people. So you need to figure out how to make your work survive the realities of that.”
Distinctive, yet so ordinary as to be nearly invisible to passers-by.
Check the ingredients list: bike button, boulevard tree, mural on utility box (guy in a tie with pocket pens, and coffee steam entering his ear, kid in a tie bouncing high on spring feet, dude surfing in a tie with laptop & earbuds, sushi server, badminton player and birds, seagulls, happy airborne shopper), sidewalk, grassy boulevard.