Wedged onto the terracei between the Fairmont Pacific Rim and its neighbouring Shaw Tower in Coal Harbour, I found myself all alone save the nubile hostesses amongst the scale architectural models, couture dresses, one-off pianos, and video screens cozily arranged in the 30-foot-tall white tent erected as the centrepiece of Westbank’s #fightforbeauty campaign.
The overarching theme therein was that public art – whether visual, sculptural, or architectural – define a city and are the expression of its essence, its identity, and the measure of its cultural courage. The subtext was that it’s not enough to live in one of the most naturally beautiful cities in the world and leave it at that, nor is it enough to be fabulously wealthy if all you do is build golden toilets,ii but that it’s beholden upon the best among us to push the boundaries of the possible, the boundaries of the acceptable, and to strive beyond the stultifying bureaucratic mediocrity that has defined the post-post-modern period, at least in the Americas, for a generation.
This is Ian Gillespie’s vision, Westbank is his vehicle, and #fightforbeauty is the mantra currently rousing public supportiii for his sundry adventures in real estate development in Vancouver and beyond. Here are a few photos from the pop-up exhibition space, held open until February 4th.iv
Other Gesamtkunstwerkvi assembled in the big tent included this exquisite Fazioli piano designed by the late Bing Thom for installation in the foyer of Westbank’s upcoming towers called “The Butterfly.” The piano “cost” $1.2 mn but of course that’s utter nonsense. What it cost is being Ian Gillespie and having Bing Thom as a friend who will design you a custom piano and having Paolo Fazioli as another friend who will build it for you. The price of everything and the value of nothing indeed! But either way, a remarkable instrument and a fantastic way to dispose of bezzlars.vii
Though easily the most significant undertaking that Gillespie et al. have their sights set on in Vancouver is the Oakridge Centre. Set to begin construction this year and continuing for as much as a decade from now, over 2500 housing units will be added to a luxury retail centre and public arts spaces where today only retail exists. The scale model and hacky nighttime shot of the current Oakridge are herebelow but what they don’t show you is that it’s a massive 16-square block plan located atop a Skytrain stationviii that includes about 10 towers with subtly complex geometries – some even cinching about their waists while twisting along their z-axes – designed by Masamichi Katayama in coordination with Gregory Henriquez. It will surely be another fight against the #slacking affordablistas.
Beauty might be V, or it might be Vancouver House. It might be #fitsinhead, or it might be a Fazioli. But it absolutely must be fought for. The world won’t give it to you on a silver platter. No matter who you are.
P.S. “Oh, those Greeks! They knew how to live: what is needed for that is to stop bravely at the surface, the fold, the skin ; to worship appearance, to believe in shapes, tones, words – in the whole Olympus of appearance! Those Greeks were superficial – out of profundity!” ~Nietzsche
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Addenda of Assorted Vancouverisms
Being the only non-Asian in a sushi restaurant is either a sign of the high quality of the food or a sign that you’re in Hongkouver.
Don’t #slack. IRC yo.
Trannies welcome at Vancouver City Hall. Or does “trannies” mean something else ? I can’t keep up with all the lingo, I tell ya.
There’s decent shopping to be had under dem dere bridges. Dry clothes eh. Who needs NAFTA when Mexico is already here ?
Driving a black limousine of a particular brand apparently entitles you to special treatment at YEG Airport. Parking right next to the pedway where the handicap spots are normally located is about as first-class as non-valet parking gets, and for half the price. I have to say that this was some proper customer service and hopefully the start of a trend. If we’re to work with the pre-existing stereotypes, Nissan should sponsor GT-R parking spots right in front of the casino and BMW should sponsor parking spots right in front of the rub-n-tug.
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- Stock photo :
Undated image via teh internetz. ↩
- Whether as a stand-in for Van Goghs or otherwise. ↩
- How else to stir up support in the Insta-Age but hashtags and encouraged photography ?
The plan is working too. The opposition can scarcely muster ten homeless, four signs, and a megaphone. Mopey, #slacky, dreary-looking lot of “no fault of their own” non-colonists, wouldn’t you say ?
Anoter undated image via teh internetz. Last one I swear. ↩
- When I was in Van back in early November, I walked past the said same pop-up but had absolutely no interest whatsoever in whatever may have been inside for as long as there were 30-person line-ups extending out into the rain waiting to get in. This, despite the fact that the exhibition was originally scheduled to close down in December 17, 2017, and if I didn’t wait in line like a lemming, I’d miss it altogether. Funny how the world works out for you when you’re not willing to be treated like another number. ↩
- Speaking of little people, there are whispers that the LEED Platinum target for this project is holding on by the narrowest of margins and might not make it into the final design. The complexity of the dramatically sloping facade, the speed of construction required, the stringency of the new LEED v4 standard that the project must certify under, and the tight budget mean that Gold may be more realistic. Still not bad, but not as world-class.
But that’s nothing compared to the compromise that Westbank made with the City to get even as far as it did. Did you know that there were originally supposed to be two towers in and around the tri-fork at the north edge of Granville Bridge ? TWO TOWERS!!!1!1 That’s like finding out that you were supposed to marry two hot twins but push-back from City Council and whatever “rights groups” meant that only got one. Lame-o.
Doesn’t the black-and-white painting make the single Vancouver House tower look awfully lonely now ? Le triste… ↩
- In architecture circles, this concatenated German term meaning approximately “total work of art” is attributed to Le Corbusier and his work on the Heidi Weber Museum in Zurich, though Wagner employed the term nearly a century earlier. ↩
- Gillespie has now commissioned 8 or 9 such Faziolis for use in his buildings. The one in Telus Garden was even being played (and how!) when I passed through there. They’re more than just visual statements.
- Vancouver was intelligent enough to build its “Skytrain” tracks either underground or above-grade. Edmonton, contrariwise, is just too poorfaggy and provincial to know that a metro just isn’t a metro if it’s at-grade and so is building dozens of kilometres of the shit as slowly as humanly possible (ie. in decades instead of hours). But that’s a bone we’ve picked previously. ↩