Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Concrete city

The north plaza of  the Vancouver Art Gallery, once a green lawn with trees, flowers and a fountain, will soon become a gigantic concrete slab. The rubble is from the work now underway.
Construction fencing closes off the art gallery to allow the machines to do their work.

The redesign of the north end of the Burrard Bridge seems to add more concrete to the area. 

A look behind the construction fence on the Burrard Bridge. The plywood stands in for railings that are being replaced, and the pedestrian sidewalk has been chewed up by machines. 

Oh Vancouver -- or at least Vancouver city council -- how we do love concrete! For a city renowned for its natural beauty, led by politicians who supposedly want to make it the greenest in the world, there is an awful lot of grey stuff pouring out of cement mixers.

Yes, the Burrard Bridge does need fixing -- the rebar was starting to show through the railings. And the intersection at the north end was so unsafe that something needed to be done. But the intersection redesign seems to have vastly increased the amount of concrete there, with an exponential growth in crossings,  road markings, bike lanes, car lanes and sidewalks. Indeed, the sidewalk fronting the few remaining old houses along Pacific appears to have expanded so far that it has eaten up part of their front steps!

And at the Vancouver Art Gallery, which I also passed on Monday, something had to be done about the ugly expanse of bark mulch it has suffered since the 2010 Olympics. But the answer, sadly, is to rip out the existing trees and the fountain and cover the entire north plaza in a gigantic slab of concrete. Yes, there will be new trees and seats and the area will be level and accessible. Some say the minimalist design will focus more attention on the heritage gallery building itself, and provide more space for gatherings.

But I remember the art gallery plaza from the years it was a green lawn with mature trees and plots of carefully tended seasonal flowers. To me, adding more concrete to the sea of concrete that is downtown Vancouver seems like an odd way to build a green city.

This view of the art gallery shows the section where the fountain has been ripped out.

The orange excavator and the pile of rubble from another angle, looking north.

The sign says it all. The vast concrete slab dominates the redesign.

The Burrard Bridge, looking south. Pedestrians have been detouring for months, walking down the blocked-off centre of the bridge. 

The bridge retrofit is to add controversial suicide fences that will partially block the views, but the central structure that gives the bridge its heritage feel will remain. 

This is mostly what you'll see if you walk across the Burrard Bridge today. The  fencing blocks the views that usually make crossing the bridge a pleasure.

1 comment:

  1. I must make a point of walking across Vancouver bridges one of these days. I imagine you have walked over them all! Yes...so much concrete in a green city.