Geometry at Work & Play

23 April 2018 – I know it’s a stretch to think of bridges as geometry-made-visible; any mathematician (or architect) would blench at the thought. But still. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines geometry as “the study of space and the relationships between points, lines, curves and surfaces.”

Doesn’t a bridge quite wonderfully show us all of that?

So I hoof onto the north end of the Burrard Bridge, ready to be delighted by all those points, lines, curves and surfaces, and by the relationships that weave them together in space.

Oh, honestly … just look at this gateway. Towers and boat prows and heroic stern-faced gentlemen and a gallery running between, with windows that serve no purpose. And all so stylishly, so happily, Art Deco.

We enjoy it now, but imagine what a tonic it must have been to the Depression-weary crowd that watched the opening ceremony on 1 July 1932.

I’m amused to discover later that these gateways — one each end of the bridge — were created for a workaday purpose. They were not structurally necessary. The architect decided to build them in order to mask the network of steel that lies between them.

Geometry looking playful, but hard at work.

Never mind. Don’t care. I’m charmed by the gateway and the arches — but also by the way they bracket that network of steel in between. This is a steel truss bridge, after all.

Step through, and here’s an invitation for pedestrians to stop walking and take a moment for play — a whole line-up of black benches, tucked into place between the trusses.

Sit down, look up — geometry at work. Wouldn’t the Cambridge dictionary be proud? Line/space relationships galore.

Now look forward, through the railing.

More invitation to play: the curve of the seawall on the north shore of False Creek. It rolls away from the Aquatic Centre Dock close to the bridge, past Sunset Beach, past English Bay Beach, on to Stanley Park.

Enough lolly-gagging! I have to get up. I have places to go, things to do.

Off the south end of the bridge, around & down & eastward along the seawall on the south side of False Creek. I pause, look back at the bridge.

From this angle, doesn’t look soaring at all, does it? No, it looks impaled on all those bristling masts in the marinas below.

But those gateways still stand out, still tell the world: “Burrard Bridge.”

I walk on, properly intent on my things-to-do.

Then, as I pass the public fish market, I am diverted  by Go Fish, a tiny takeaway booth with a big view over the Creek and a bearably small line-up. (And the day is sunny & mild! And I’ve walked a lot and deserve a rest! And I want, I really really want, their salmon & chips!)

So I place my order, snaffle the last Creek-facing perch on the little patio, and have myself a blissful half-hour.



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  1. Ah, how we’d love to walk the bridge and join you for fish & chips! Wonderful photos.

    • It really is a charmer. I was by it again today, another overlapping walk with a friend, loved it all over again.

  2. Tom

     /  24 April 2018

    During my sabbatical year in Vancouver, I lived on Beach Drive and enjoyed a perpetual view of this beautiful bridge. (I can see my apartment building in your 3rd-last photo.) I walked down there often to enjoy a closer look. Thanks for sharing these excellent photos. 🙂

    • Oh Tom thank you for telling me this! I’m so happy to have given you a current glimpse of this — as you rightly say — beautiful bridge. And of your old apartment as well, how magic.

  3. I think I spied a dodecahedron! Oh, never mind. It turned out to be merely a triangle.

    • No, no, hold out for that dodecahedron! I thought I saw a hypotenuse or two, but they’re shy critters aren’t they, and now I think it was probably a Betelgeuse, cross-dressing…

  4. What a word is lollygagging! Exactly what a flâneuse does. I love the geometry of this bridge and your commentary tied to a dictionary definition.

    • I thought it was Brit slang, checked, found it’s American in origin — that’s what comes of living in Canada, you’re bombarded with both sets of influences! I’ll add you don’t hear it used any more, but I do like the sound of it…

      • Looking it up, I came across cattywumpus. Watch my blog for a guest appearance of both words.

      • I’ve just signed up for your Warsaw blog so I’ll travel with you — what fun! I’ve been to Prague (shortly after the Russians rolled back in, so quite grim) but not to Warsaw or anywhere else in that part of the world. Slang is wonderful, isn’t it? So juicy, so evocative. And telling of its origins — I love for e.g. the difference between France-French swear words and Quebec-Frenchy swear words (the latter built around the Mass & very creative blasphemy…) Then there’s Newfoundland slang, indeed there’s a whole Dictionary of Newfoundland English! Well, being Australian you know all about slang that is also history of a place, time, culture…

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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

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