Boots

12 October 2017 – There we are, prancing along in our citified walking boots, and there they are.

Construction worker boots. Well-used & apparently abandoned, beneath a handsome bench next to the handsome landscaping around one of the new condo towers clustered at the north end of the Granville St. bridge.

The worker boots are just as appropriate as the bench, though, because new buildings are going up all the time.

Including this one!

I know. Upside-down and everything.

Meet Vancouver House-in-the making, a star project of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), with condos above and retail below, the latter nicely scooped out to a 30-m. set-back from the bridge on/off ramps.

We go “Wow” and then our personal boots — worn by my Delightful Young Relation (DYR) & me — prance on.

It’s a day for discoveries. First the impossible-to-describe, very high-tech Fly Over Canada spectacle in Canada Place — thank you for the treat, DYR. Then from high- to low-tech, namely our boots on pavement as we walk south from Burrard Inlet to False Creek. Making discoveries as we go.

This outsized table & chairs in Mae and Lorne Brown Park, for example.

A confession. I know the bright-rust shrubs are that colour because they’re dead — but, still, even so, aren’t they pretty? Isn’t that green/rust contrast very pleasing to the eye?

But so is GRANtable, a madcap sculpture created by Pechet + Robb on commission from Parks & Rec for the City of Vancouver.

DYR lines it all up through a viewing aperture in the chair; I line him up, lining it up.

Plan A had been to catch a ferry once we hit False Creek (because I do love those ferries), but when we get there, we morph into Plan B instead. The weather is so appealing, and our boots are so made for walking … So we walk. Initially eastward on the north side of False Creek, which will in time take us around the curve to the south side (home turf for us both).

Still on the north side, a series of kiosks along the pathways, the words resonating — says an online page about False Creek art — with “the site’s natural and industrial history.”

I’m puzzled by some of the references, captivated by others. Somebody, please, tell me about that red caboose!

Almost to the stub end of False Creek now, approaching BC Place Stadium, and we gawk at the just-unveiled Parq [sic] Vancouver Casino.

Still finishing touches. Two ant-sized humans up there, see them?

One sitting on the roof, legs dangling; one partway up the façade, undoubtedly fitting something to something.

A casino, and a fine fit with the rust-by-design component of my recent R is for Rust post…

More rust soon after, this time rust-by-time, when I lean over DYR’s balcony for a bird’s eye view of The Flats — the industrial expanse just east of Main St., pretty well level with the end of False Creek.

And a nice contrast too, between the battered old building on the left, and the gussied up, be-muralled beauty on the right — but both of them equally workhorse, both of them warehouses.

I tuck down to water’s edge again, immediately behind the Telus World of Science building, to admire the curve of pilings at Creek-end, and the marine-life silhouettes glinting silver atop each one.

Westward now, along the south shore of the Creek. I’m approaching Hinge Park, my head full of fall and fall colours and fall odours and fall events.

I do not anticipate ice.

Great slabs of ice. Ice-as-art. Who would?

But there it is.

Oh, don’t even ask, I have no idea. No little signboard to explain what he’s up to, and no interaction by Ice Artist Guy with his mesmerized audience.

And they are indeed mesmerized. Especially Pretzel Woman.

After a bit, I smack myself upside the head, and walk on.

 

 

Recti/Curvi – Linear

8 September 2017 – Straight lines and curvy lines, in other words.

And they don’t come much straighter than this.

Yes, the sewer cover itself is round, thus curvy, but its design (if we may dignify the imprint as such) is very, very straight-line.

Brett Lockwood, in his eclectic and perceptive WordPress blog, O’Canada, recently had a whole post about heritage sewer covers.

This is not a heritage cover.

Even so, it is on display at the Museum of Vancouver for a purpose. The MOV, dedicated to helping us connect more deeply with the city, wants us to think about grids, and what they mean.

The display then muses about straight lines, and curving lines. What do they tell us about the cultures that use them, favour one over the other?

Consider this other Vancouver sewer cover — the work of Musqueam artists Susan Point and Kelly Cannell, commissioned by the City in 2004.

Curvilinear indeed, and deeply meaningful.

The whole rectilinear / curvilinear dynamic enters my mind — indeed, my way of connecting with the city — more deeply than I realize at the time. A few days later, my friend Louise and I are on University of British Columbia grounds, visiting first the Museum of Anthropology and, later, the UBC Botanical Garden.

I stand by the reflecting pond, I look at the magnificent MOA building — so perfectly “nestled in its landscape” as its architect, Arthur Erickson, pointed out — and I am struck by its lines.

Its bold rectilinear lines.

The reflecting pond is all gentle curves, the pathways as well, also the grassy hummock framed by those pathways. But oh, that building.

I see, too, how it echoes the post-and-beam construction of traditional Northwest Coast Aboriginal buildings — and of the mid-20th century sculpture complex in this compound, with its poles and buildings, the work of leading contemporary First Nations artists.

First you see the post-and-beam, the powerful horizontals & verticals. But then you also see the curve of the eyes, the other curves of the carved figures. And you think — well, I think — that perhaps, yes, we do reconcile the curving and the rectilinear, both often and well.

But for that MOV exhibit, I would never have noticed, never have thought about it.

Louise & I walk on down Marine Drive — 17,000 footsteps that day, I want you to know! — to visit two more UBC attractions, both of them part of one entity, the UBC Botanical Garden.

First, the Nitobe Memorial Garden, considered one of the most authentic outside Japan.

The gentle arch of the bridge, made oval by its own reflection. And, to the right, among the trees, the strong, simple, straight lines of the Tea House.

On to the main site of the Botanical Garden, where we follow our whim to its northern lobe, the North Gardens. This route takes us through the Moon Gate.

By now you’re seeing with my eye, aren’t you! Horizontals & verticals, powerful & rectilinear.

And then, drawing the eye and the feet, the distant curve of the moon gate.

Once there, again by whim, we search out the Physic Garden. It is small, beautiful, enclosed by the straight lines of its traditional yew hedge. The garden itself, a showcase of the medicinal plants of medieval Europe, contains 12 concentric beds, with a sundial at the centre.

Curve upon curve — but also the triangular gnomon (pointer), arrowing the sun’s faint shadow straight-line to 2 p.m.

I do take the MOV point about conflicting symbolisms, in those grid vs curving sewer covers.

But I also take heart in all the subsequent evidence that we do often, both in architecture and in nature, reconcile the curve and the rectilinear very nicely indeed.

Not-Toronto Alley

31 August 2017 – No, no! You do not go looking for one city in another, judging the latter by how much it does, or doesn’t, resemble the former.

So I am slightly embarrassed to confess that this alley immediately reminds me of Toronto alleys that I have walked & loved.

But it is not Toronto.

It is Vancouver. Lower east side Vancouver (between W. Cordova & W. Hastings, and Richards & Homer).

Still, it is very reminiscent, is it not?

I am a tad nostalgic, as I watch this old fellow pause to light his cigarette and then slowly wander on his way.

A whole lotta paint on this walls. No wonder this aerosol can is lying flat, exhausted.

(The cat, of course, would not dream of slumping in exhaustion.)

Even a bare pole isn’t quite bare.

I haven’t seen this little red Angry-Mask before, but suspect it has been pinned to many other surfaces as well.

On the pavement beneath my feet, more art work.

 

Then there’s Peek-a-Boo, with Dumpster. (Vincent Van Gogh Division.)

And Peek-a-Boo, with Truck.

And Peek-a-Boo, with Shoulder.

I emerge.

And pretty soon, on the edge of Gastown, I’m enjoying a different vista entirely.

On the right, the 1910 Dominion Building, Vancouver’s first steel-framed high-rise (once the British Empire’s tallest building); on the left, and wonderfully sympathetic in its architecture, a market-price residential tower in the redeveloped Woodward’s complex.

Definitely not Toronto! Definitely Vancouver.

 

Light & Shadow, Light from Shadow

20 March 2016 – I am again at the Aga Khan Museum, drawn by Visual Stories of a Toronto Community — the one-day exhibit of images created by teenagers after a photography workshop that provided them with skills, encouragement and (I think) cameras as well. I also want to revisit the stunning Abbas Kiarostami installation Doors Without Keys before it closes on March 28.

But really, this is a centre I think I’d gratefully visit for its architecture & serenity alone. The play of light is an important component in that total effect.

entrance, Aga Khan Museum

Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki gave the museum strong, simple lines — proof that strength need not be aggressive, it can be very calm indeed. Even on grey days, the building radiates. Even more so today, in the morning sun.

As always, I am fascinated by the play of light & shadow in the inner courtyard, the result of mashrabiya patterns etched into its glass walls.

view of innter courtyard, up to open sky

Each glass courtyard wall, transparent yet delicately veiled …

detail, courtyard wall

throwing its ever-changing pattern upon adjacent Museum walls.

Here, next to the coat-check stand …

pattern thrown onto adjacent wall

here, playing against the entrance to the Bellerive Room, with its own patterns in gleaming wood …

next to Bellerive Room entrance

and here, on up to the ceiling, pattern on pattern, texture on texture, shadows working with the light to create luminous beauty.

courtyard walls

Later, I cross the formal Islamic Garden, by Lebanese landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic.

It is a sensory experience even now, when the reflecting pools are empty and tree branches bare. I feel gravel beneath my feet & hear its crunch; I admire the sculpture of bare branches against the sky; I slightly narrow my eyes against the glint of sun on the facets of the prayer hall in the adjoining Ismaili Centre.

view across the Islamic Garden to the Ismaili Centre

I have already taken one of the public tours offered of this beautiful building, the work of Indian architect Charles Correa — and recommend the experience — but I am here again today for a more focused purpose. The Exhibition Hall currently features a display entitled Tolerance, Understanding, Coexistence: Oman’s Message of Islam.

Messages of hate reverberate so much more easily than messages of peace and good will, do they not? All the more reason to pay attention when light emerges from all that shadow.

Photography is not permitted in the exhibit, but you can visit the Omani website and see for yourself why I bring it to your attention. Here is an opening quote, it gives the flavour:

We have three population groups on earth: the first, consisting of Christians, Jews and Muslims, who believe in one God and a holy book; the second, atheists, who have lost all confidence in religion; and the third group, representing a variety of religious and spiritual ideas. We endeavor to maintain a constructive and genuine dialogue with scholars and representatives of all these groups.

The aim of exchange is to reflect on the foundations of our thinking, a common morality and a common sense of justice. For only when we are aware of these similarities and they form a basis for our actions, while accepting cultural differences, will we and our children enjoy a peaceful future.

— Sheikh Abdullah al-Salimi, Minister of Endowments and Religious Affairs

(One further comment about Islam in Oman: the education of girls is not only permitted, it is compulsory.)

Speaking of websites, the Ismaili Centre’s own WordPress site has captured all my previous posts about this complex of buildings. Visit me — and much more — here.

  • WALKING… & SEEING

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

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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