Bridges, Birds, and Brass Rocking Dogs

It’s hard to think that only two days ago, I was sitting on a bench in Charleson Park (my favourite Vancouver park) reading a book and watching dog walkers, cyclists, and preschool kids enjoying the sunshine, and today, I am watching thick flakes of snow from my apartment windows falling down and sticking to the ground.

View from my reading bench

I’d rather relive my Friday than show snowy shots of a season that I am all too happy to leave behind. So here are some snapshots of my Friday afternoon, walking from the Olympic Village SkyTrain station to Granville Island along the south shore of False Creek.

False Creek harbour

View of downtown from False Creek South

I first found out about Charleson Park when I went on an architectural tour of Vancouver with UBC geography professor David Ley as part of Regent College Summer Programs a few years ago. I remember climbing up a little trail that led to an unusual-looking pedestrian bridge that crosses a railway and roadway below. I was so intrigued with the discovery that I went looking to find it again, and ta-da:

The earth is pushing up through the middle of this landscaped bridge, creating fissures in the cement. I think it looks rather beautiful—a little oasis of urban planning enveloped by nature’s presence. The bridge extends all the way to 7th Avenue and Laurel Street. On my next trip here, I will have to walk all the way across and see what it looks like from the other side.

Standing on the pedestrian bridge, overlooking the railway

City peeking through the trees

I then made my way back down to Island Park Walk which I followed until I got to Granville Island.

I stumbled upon a new public art piece called Brass Rocking Dog, part of “The Art of Recycling” initiative by Revision@Creekhouse. This piece continues to play into the “Garbage to Gold” theme that is such a part of Granville Island’s history—turning an industrial junkyard into a site of high art and cultural capital.

Rocking Dog by Ron Simmer

The plaque reads:

Ron Simmer is a sculptor working with found and recycled materials. As well as recycled objects, he sometimes incorporates organic matter—stone and wood—to express concerns about the fragility of our environment.

The simulated balloon dog is made of precision TIG welded used brass water tanks resembling a giant “rocking dog” toy. The tanks were originally cleaned by glass bead blasting and have now acquired a natural patina.

Another shot of the brass rocking dog

It’s funny to think that 10 brass water tanks can be arranged to look like something quite other than what it actually is. A few gestural lines and a pair of enlarged rocking chair sliders immediately suggested “child’s rocking horse—but dog” to me, or one of those balloon animals children receive at birthday parties and fairs. It looks as weightless as a balloon too, which is the other creative illusion of the installation. We see something familiar out of something unfamiliar, something possible out of something seemingly impossible. If it looked a little more comfortable, doesn’t it make you want to climb up on it and go for a ride?


The Granville Island Public Market food court

To finish the day, I grabbed a Bratwurst sausage from the Granville Island Public Market and ate it from a second floor table while I did some writing and, of course, people watching. How could you not with a window this big and such bizarre sights like a dozen pigeons perching on the arm of a man who doesn’t seem to mind in the least? It brought back memories of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds that I, for whatever reason, watched as a kid and has horrifyingly stuck with me since. On that foreboding note, I’ll end with the truism that you never know what weird and wonderful things you’ll see when you walk out your front door and venture into the world beyond.

A prime people-watching spot with Granville St. Bridge in the background

Garbage to Gold

I was on Granville Island the other day and was able to snap some pics in the last stretch of sunny weather before another batch of rain sets in. What I love about Granville Island:

  • how colourful it is

  • its views of False Creek and the iconic glass condos that are a staple of Vancouver’s skyline

  • its juxtaposition of art and industry as seen on buildings’ exposed structural and mechanical elements, representing traces of this man-made island’s industrial past

Malaspina Printmakers


  • the public market. Even though walking through the narrow aisles feels as packed as the sardines they have for sale in the fresh seafood section, there are some yummy eats and unique artsy gems you can find when browsing through the hundreds of vendor stalls

  • there’s a store for literally everything under the sun, which you can get a sense of by reading these names: “Umbrella Shop,” “The Postcard Place,” “Rhinoceros,” “The Granville Island Soap Gallery” and “The Granville Island Broom Company.” Yes, there is actually a store that just sells brooms. No joke. I should have taken a picture of that one.

In the words of Paul Delany in Vancouver: Representing the Postmodern City,

The success of Granville Island has been based on its mixture of uses and its (post)modernisation of existing buildings. Post-industrial society can afford to feel nostalgic about factories: abandoned machines and structures are not experienced as mere junk, but rather as relics of an heroic age when goods were hammered out, with toil and skill, from recalcitrant materials.”

In other words, the success of Granville Island revolves around repackaging what was formerly an industrial “junk” or “garbage” site into an attractive and desirable site of high cultural and economic capital. To read about a future dystopian Granville Island that plays with the idea of art and commodity, check out William Gibson’s short story, “The Winter Market.”

Dockside Brewery – active remnants of an industrial past

Indeed, yesterday’s garbage is tomorrow’s gold. And how golden it is.