Marpole’s Golden Tree

A piece of Stanley Park has uprooted to my neighbourhood of Marpole. With a bit of a colour change.

The newest public art in Vancouver is Golden Tree by Douglas Coupland, installed this past August at the corner of Marine Drive and Cambie Street, in front of Intracorp’s MC2 development.

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This artwork sure adds colour to a cloudy day. View from Marine Gateway.

It stands out alright, not just for its size (13 metres tall, the exact replica of Stanley Park’s Hollow Tree), but it also stands out for its colour—gold.

In an interview with the CBC, Coupland says, “I think its more a head-turner, a, ‘what the heck was that?’ That’s my favourite reaction.”

Just to clarify, Stanley Park’s famous 700 to 800 year-old Hollow Tree is still standing in Stanley Park. After the heavy windstorm in 2006, the tree was scheduled for removal due to safety concerns, but thanks to the efforts of the Hollow Tree Conservation Society and private donations, it is still standing (albeit with cables and steel).

Coupland’s replica is made out of steel-reinforced resin and fiberglass, encased in a gold finish.

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The gold looks a little garish to me. I tend to think I would like it better if it looked natural but then it would be like having a real tree there except you know it wouldn’t normally grow there so then it would just be weird. At least the gold makes it distinct. And better than highlighter purple or blue or pink. There’s something regal and magical about gold. Maybe it’s already “growing” on me (see what I did there?).

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But why replicating this tree in Marpole is significant, I do not know. All the CBC article mentions is that Coupland said there are a lot of memories attached to the tree, which is why he chose to imitate it: “I think it takes us from one century to the next.”

Maybe so, but what is the relationship between Stanley Park, the northernmost point of the city, and Marpole, Vancouver’s southernmost? Obviously the artist is trying to make some sort of connection here with the large image of Stanley Park in the background of the artwork.

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Does the tree reference something in Marpole’s history that not many know about? Or is it trying to say something about old and new? Nature and city? Nature and art/imitation?

I love that Marpole is getting more and impressive public art but I wish this piece spoke better to its context.

Have you seen Golden Tree yet? What are your thoughts?

Calgary – An Olympic Wonderland

After Roughing it in the Bush for several days, the second part of our Albertan vacation took us to a few different cities, of which the biggest was Calgary, a place I had never been to apart from the airport.

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The Bow River with a lovely pedestrian bridge that connects to downtown

One of my good friends lives there and she gave me an excellent tour, beginning with downtown.

Stephen Avenue was by far the most vibrant street, offering plenty of restaurants, shopping, entertainment venues, and public art. It’s described as “Calgary’s historic pedestrian mall” on this Calgary Downtown website, and I liked walking on a street that cars don’t have access to.

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Pedestrians line up to cross Stephen Avenue

In the pic above, you may be able to see some cone-shaped steel structures between the buildings in the distance that look like something out of a sci-fi movie. They’re called the Galleria Trees and they were installed between Bankers Hall and the Home Oil Tower in 2000 to break up the wind tunnel that these two buildings created. There are 10 of them in total. I like that they have a functional use and yet they serve a double purpose as public art. They have since been equipped with an audio system to play music and with LED lighting for special events.

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Looking up at the Galleria Trees

Because the Rio Olympics were going on while I was there, the City had put up a gigantic screen on Stephen Avenue with couches and chairs for the public to enjoy the Olympic action, and I thought that was the coolest thing (Vancouver, take notice!)

I was definitely in the Olympic spirit, and so my friend indulged my interest to see all of the major venues when Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics. We dipped our feet into the Olympic Plaza downtown where the medal ceremonies took place.

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Olympic Plaza-turned-waterpark during the summer

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Also near the Plaza are these eye-catching orange pipes listing all 100 parks in Calgary, with different heights according to their age (the taller, the older).

The artists (IBI/Landplan) said this about their artwork titled Centennial Grove installation:

Drawing on the imagery of the native prairie landscape of aspen groves and grasslands and in a celebration of the 100 anniversary of the City of Calgary Parks, the installation symbolizes 100 trunks of aspen trees nestled in grassland.

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Speaking of public artwork, it’s hard to miss this mesh face in front of the distinctive Bow Building (Calgary’s tallest tower) that, together, create probably the two biggest/most distinctive markers to the city’s urban landscape. Wonderland is the name of the large white sculpture made of painted stainless steel, standing 12 metres high, designed by internationally-renowned Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.

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The Bow Building

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Walking into the Wonderland of the artist’s imagination

I like what Christopher Hume says about the two entrances on either side of the girl’s neck in The Star:

Had these entrances not been included, which would traditionally have been the case, our relationship with the piece would be different. Wonderland would have remained a fascinating object that lay forever just beyond our reach.

But because we can enter into the artist’s head, and peer at the world from the inside out, we are able to “possess” the work, or at least, view things from its point of view.

Indeed. I had never been inside someone’s head before.

We eventually left downtown to explore the other Olympic venues, such as the Olympic Oval at University of Calgary.

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It was a little strange to see speedskaters in the middle of summer!

Outside the Oval is the torch that was lit in 1988—quite a stark contrast from the elaborate ones made these days. I told my friend it was rather underwhelming but as she reminded me, “Things were simpler back then.” And it got the job done.

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We took a quick peek at Canada Olympic Park where you can ride the Skyline Luge down the hill like a go-kart, but unfortunately we didn’t have time for this so will hope to catch it on our next visit.

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Apart from finding Calgary extremely spread out and rather disjointed as a city, I enjoyed touring around the downtown part especially, seeing the buildings and bridges and some waterfront/running areas along the Bow. Their public art scene seems to be strong and, compared to Vancouver, there were far more public squares/plazas/seating areas like the one below that integrate well with the landscape and foster a dynamic street culture (though no one was sitting there as we walked by!)

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Float

Inspired by the Richmond public artwork Float (2014) by Mark Ashby and Kim Cooper.

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on the corner of No. 1 and
Westminster Highway
there is a ball and chain and
beside it, a girl
standing on tiptoes
hands reaching to touch these
curious ornaments that
lean just enough
away

oh! the tension of the young
to feel everything so sharply
welded chain and painted steel
the pull to stay on the ground
the buoyancy to float
on

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School’s In!

One of the things I wanted to do over the Christmas holidays was explore a new part of Vancouver. I had never walked much of Broadway before, so on a sunny afternoon, I strolled the stretch from Granville Street to Bayswater, snapping pics of interesting things along the way.

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And one of those interesting things was the offices of the Vancouver School Board at 1580 West Broadway. The building itself wasn’t so interesting, but the sculptures of children playing in the park at the entrance to it were.

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It was like a game of hide and go seek, trying to find these 7 unobtrusive sculptures.

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This was the first one I saw:

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The second:

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Third:

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Fourth (and my favourite):

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Fifth:

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I love the movement, energy, and playfulness the sculptor captured in a hard medium like bronze, as well as all the realistic details: the pleats and wrinkles in the clothes, the yellow strip of tearaway pants, the girl’s barrette. The titles are fun too.

I couldn’t find the 6th and 7th ones, but stumbled across these letters in the ground, which immediately made me think of the Jackson 5 song:

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In the spirit of these sculptures, I thought this Raymond Carver poem fit well:

Happiness

So early it’s almost dark out.
I’m near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.
When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.
They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren’t saying anything, these boys.
I think if they could, they would take
each other’s arm. It’s early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.
They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.
Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn’t enter into this.
Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.

Hello, Marine Gateway

Part of my rationale in choosing Marpole when I moved to Vancouver in 2013 was not just the cheaper rents, but the access to downtown and Richmond via the new Canada Line SkyTrain station at Marine Drive and Cambie Street.

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Where there’s a SkyTrain station, development always follows, and now when I walk to that SkyTrain station, I see soaring residential towers and a whole new shopping hub that has been named “High Street” (I don’t know if I’d go that far since it’s not offering anything out of the chain store norm, but you know marketers…)

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I have to say I am happy Marine Gateway has arrived in my neighbourhood— a neighbourhood that I love yet is sorely lacking retail shops and more variety of restaurants.

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No longer will the Artist and I have to go downtown to see a movie in theatres—we can walk fifteen minutes from our apartment! I am particularly excited about the Winners and Shoppers Drug Mart for the convenience factor.

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I walked around there the other day, checking out which stores have opened so far. Tim Hortons and Dublin Crossing are still in the works (shown above), but Starbucks, Shoppers, CIBC, BMO, T&T Supermarket, and A&W are up and running. (A&W is my favourite fast food joint so this addition really thrills me).

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There’s even some public art in the plaza! Here’s a statue of Simon Fraser by Ken Lum, the explorer after which the university is named.

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And on the pavement, some writing about the history of the surrounding places.

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On the stairs leading down to the bus loop, I discovered some more public art that looks like it might be back lit at night. I couldn’t find a plaque so not sure what it’s about, though I’m guessing it’s an homage to the Musqueam people and their tools/ways of life who lived in this area first.

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Here’s a complete list of the calls for public art at Marine Gateway.

Marpole is certainly getting more attractive features, and it will be interesting to see how this affects traffic and housing and rent prices that I hope can remain affordable for this neighbourhood I call home on the edge of the city.

A Grove of 16 Trees

The Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel in Vancouver is not a stranger to public art. In one of my very first blog posts (way back in 2011!) I talked about the poem by Liam Gillick that wraps around 17 stories of the hotel, inspiring my foray into architexture.

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Now there’s another public artwork in the plaza of the hotel, unveiled in March of this year. 16 is the name of this stainless steel and glass grove of trees that run the 30 metre length of the hotel’s main entrance in downtown Vancouver. Designed by Omer Arbel of the boutique design company Bocci, 16 is a permanent installation whose name reflects the 16 stainless steel frames or “armatures” on which hang glass apples fitted with an LED light so they illuminate at night.

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I have yet to see the artwork at night, but based on the images from Bocci’s website, it looks stunning. Even during the day, it stopped me in my tracks to take in these abstract trees with their flattened proportions. The 480 apple leaves are made of 3 separate layers of molten glass, individually poured on top of each other so that no leaf is identical to the other leaf (very much the way nature works). There are some cool videos you can watch on the website as well that show that the tree and branch system is made up of tinier segments that click into place, allowing someone to rearrange the trees in different configurations.

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This thin and lightweight-looking orchard of trees is an elegant solution of bringing visual interest and conversation to the hotel’s outdoor plaza. And yet because of the mythic proportions that an apple tree carries in Western culture, along with my interest (okay, maybe addiction) to the TV series Once Upon a Time, the trees in 16 seem to carry a magical and mysterious quality to them, as if I am stepping back into a fairy tale time where I’m looking at these artificial constructions with a mixture of awe and suspicion.

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