Vancouver's New Convention Centre

Vancouver Convention Centre

Van­cou­ver Con­ven­tion Cen­tre

Pam and I had a lit­tle free time this week­end, so on Sat­ur­day, we head­ed over to the water­front, and were among the first cou­ple of thou­sand peo­ple who walked around the new Con­ven­tion Cen­tre. The project, which has been under­way as long as we can remem­ber (and prob­a­bly was offi­cial­ly start­ed before we even arrived here in 2005), has come in hor­ri­bly over bud­get, and I do remem­ber sto­ries of some of the met­al used in the build­ing being stolen. How­ev­er it is done, and in time for the Olympics, as well as a few year’s worth of con­ven­tion book­ings in the space from 2010 onward.

Pam and I both liked the archi­tec­ture of the build­ing, espe­cial­ly the impres­sive wood walls and green roof. It’s def­i­nite­ly as much an eco­log­i­cal state­ment as it is a build­ing; there are even res­i­dent bee­hives and a bee­keep­er for main­tain­ing them. I under­stand that this wasn’t the first time that some of the gen­er­al pub­lic had seen the inside, as friend and blog­ger Tiny Bites cov­ered the 2009 BC Restau­rant Hall of Fame gala at the same venue a few days ago.

The space is large, but sev­er­al places get the great view of the Bur­rard Inlet and the moun­tains. For this open­ing day, they had sev­er­al acro­bats and oth­er per­form­ers on hand, and I got some video of them. Here’s a tour, includ­ing a per­for­mance from a group who’s dress­ing room said ‘Cirque’. I’ve looked and not found any­thing that said it was Cirque du Soleil, but I’m think­ing it cer­tain­ly looked like them:

Here are some oth­er stills, if you are not keen on watch­ing video of some of the same:
Vancouver Convention Centre: East Side

Van­cou­ver Con­ven­tion Cen­tre: East Side

Interior with Globe

Inte­ri­or with Globe

Looking out to the West

Look­ing out to the West

Want more? Here’s a slideshow on Flickr that has these plus a few more:
Slideshow: Open­ing Day at the Van­cou­ver Con­ven­tion Cen­tre

The Countdown Begins

It’s Decem­ber, and that means 2 things: 1) a busy social cal­en­dar and 2) the count­down until the Win­ter Sol­stice. First, about the par­ties and oth­er cel­e­bra­tions, we actu­al­ly start­ed the sea­son in late Novem­ber at the Narvey’s who held a hol­i­day par­ty plus view­ing of the Canucks game (we lost, but Pam won the pool!). This past week­end we had a nice time with Matt and Oana, who this year decid­ed to cel­e­brate both Kram­pus and Saint Nicholas Day, since Oana’s sis­ter Nico­let­ta has him as her Saint (I’m not pre­cise­ly sure how that works, but I guess I’d get Saint David, the patron Saint of Wales, who has his day on March 1, right?) There was lots of great food, includ­ing the tra­di­tion­al stuffed cab­bages, a Roman­ian spe­cial­ty that Matt made along with cheeses, sausages and breads. I remem­ber my grand­moth­er, who was Russ­ian, used to make the best cab­bage rolls or  ‘Prachas’, as I remem­ber her call­ing them (also known as Gołąb­ki in Pol­ish). Pam and I brought some veg­gies with spicy peanut dip­ping sauce (not exact­ly tra­di­tion­al, but prob­a­bly a good foil to all the heav­ier, East­ern Euro­pean fare). This com­ing Thurs­day is the recep­tion and cel­e­bra­tion of the Best of 604 Awards, a brand new event that reminds me that we have a ton of great blog­gers deserv­ing of recog­ni­tion in this area. I’m thrilled that I actu­al­ly know sev­er­al of the nom­i­nees and hope they all win in their cat­e­gories.

12 Days until we Start Moving Toward the Light Again

Every year, around this week or so, I’ve got­ten in the habit of count­ing down to Decem­ber 21st, the Win­ter Sol­stice or short­est day of the year. It’s a turn­ing point, as if we’re all tak­ing a stroll toward a dark­er and cold­er end of the solar sys­tem and sniff­ing the air, and then turn­ing around and head­ing back (I know, it’s not exact­ly that, but it helps me visu­al­ize bet­ter what’s going on).

We haven’t stopped watch­ing US news, a habit we picked up when we were fever­ish­ly glued to the run-up to the elec­tion. After that media extrav­a­gan­za, it’s been the steady melt-down of the US econ­o­my that has held us with mor­bid fas­ci­na­tion.  Of course, there have been some reports of eco­nom­ic trou­ble here, such as the news this morn­ing that the Bank of Cana­da had dropped it’s key lend­ing inter­est rate by .75 basis points to 1.5%, which is report­ed­ly the low­est this bench­mark has been in a half a cen­tu­ry. Nev­er­the­less, there doesn’t seem to be quite the tone of pan­ic, fear and dread that we see and hear from the south of us.

So although it’s pret­ty gloomy out­side (heavy rain, wind and tem­per­a­tures that are slow­ly falling toward the freez­ing mark), we know that there will be that turn­ing point, and we know exact­ly when it starts, at least in terms of the num­ber of hours of pos­si­ble sun­light. On Decem­ber 22, the day will be a minute or so longer, and we are jour­ney­ing back to Spring, and even­tu­al­ly Sum­mer. My ace in the hole is that I know that as ear­ly as Feb­ru­ary (Feb­ru­ary! My year­ly neme­sis!), there will like­ly be some cher­ry blos­soms here.  All we have to do is hang on anoth­er 20 days or so and we start to see signs of Spring!

Will the Inau­gu­ra­tion of Pres­i­dent Elect Oba­ma a month lat­er be the turn­ing point? Wasn’t that was his Elec­tion Speech was about ? (‘This was the moment’) Or didn’t I hear that phrase some­where much ear­li­er in his cam­paign?

I guess we can wait for the turn­around, but the prospect of hun­ker­ing down for one or two years is not very appeal­ing. Life is short, and the inex­orable pace of move­ment on this scale makes plot­ting a turn­ing point some­thing that can only be done years lat­er, when some his­to­ri­an or econ­o­mist, por­ing over the num­bers and trends points to a date and says ‘Aha! That was when things began to turn around.’ For us liv­ing through it, the eco­nom­ic sol­stice isn’t some­thing that we can count down to.

A Casualty of Economic Winter

Out of Town News in Cambridge

Out of Town News in Cam­bridge

There are also per­ma­nent loss­es; some com­pa­nies and insti­tu­tions that won’t live through this eco­nom­ic Win­ter to see Spring. Recent­ly I learned that Out of Town News, the spir­i­tu­al and archi­tec­tur­al cen­tre of Har­vard Square (it even had the address of Zero Har­vard Square), will be clos­ing for­ev­er on Jan­u­ary 31 of next year. While I know that the days of news­pa­pers and news­stands are num­bered, I’m sure that the down­turn in the econ­o­my has­tened the end of this insti­tu­tion, which along with the Wordsworth book­store (already gone for years — it closed even before we left), was some­thing that I’ll always see in my mind’s eye when I think of Cam­bridge. I have to admit that I only stopped in there a a half-dozen of times in the decade and a half I lived in Cam­bridge and the prices were near­ly as out­ra­geous for mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers as they are at May­fair News near us now on Broad­way (It’s prob­a­bly not their fault; mag­a­zines in Cana­da are crazy expen­sive!). Per­haps Out of Town News was on the wane long before we even took notice.

Besides the cher­ry blos­soms, I’m look­ing for­ward to the fin­ish of some new addi­tions (a new Whole Foods on Broad­way! Woo hoo!), and even a new street­car line from Granville Island to Sci­ence world, along with tons of oth­er new con­struc­tion for this city in this spring, and in the com­ing year in prepa­ra­tion for the 2010 Olympics. In the mean­time, time to head down to (hun­ker down in?) our win­dow­less but warm gym in the base­ment to lis­ten to pod­casts and ped­al on the sta­tion­ary bike, think­ing of those new places I’ll actu­al­ly be cycling to in a few months.

Gingerbread Houses, Vancouver Style

Modern Gingerbread House
This morn­ing, I heard an inter­view on the radio about a com­pa­ny Cre­ative Room who, in coöper­a­tion with Van­cou­ver Spe­cial is spon­sor­ing a char­i­ty auc­tion of non-tra­di­tion­al gin­ger­bread hous­es. To quote their web site:

Hid­den behind a thin veneer of jujubes and smar­ties, the ubiq­ui­tous form of the gin­ger­bread house has stood unchal­lenged for too long! The malig­nant plague of cook­ie-cut­ter hous­ing which fouls sub­ur­bia can­not be invit­ed into our homes this hol­i­day sea­son. No longer rep­re­sen­ta­tive of our mod­ern lives, held in place by no more than icing and a repress­ing lay­er of nos­tal­gia, the con­ven­tion­al gin­ger­bread house must make way for the gin­ger­bread house of today!

Cre­ative Room and Van­cou­ver Spe­cial are chal­leng­ing Vancouver’s best archi­tects and design­ers to rethink the gin­ger­bread house in a form more fit­ting for our mod­ern life: to rein­ter­pret the gin­ger­bread house with­in a mod­ern con­text.

Hous­es are to be judged by a pan­el cho­sen from Vancouver’s pre-emi­nent archi­tects, design­ers, and artists. Entries will be made from edi­ble mate­ri­als, con­struct­ed at a scale to fit with­in an 16” cube, and dis­played at Van­cou­ver Spe­cial. The win­ning entry will be fet­ed loud­ly bring­ing (more) fame and for­tune to its illus­tri­ous design­ers. Entries will be auc­tioned off such that they may grace the liv­ing rooms of a select few Van­cou­ver homes this hol­i­day sea­son. All pro­ceeds from this event will be donat­ed to Piv­ot Legal Soci­ety.

While I don’t have the funds or space to house such a beau­ti­ful and tasty cre­ation, I thought a few would be worth show­ing here. Go to the auc­tion if you want to see more pics of them. Some are pret­ty spec­tac­u­lar, like this mod­ern ‘laneway’ house (part of the Van­cou­ver den­si­fi­ca­tion plan), and a recre­ation of the Moon mono­lith scene from 2001 a Space Odyssey:

Celebrity Person/Building Watch

I was tick­led to see that Brad Pitt and Angeli­na Jolie (oth­er­wise known as Brangeli­na) paid a vis­it to Frank Lloyd Wright’s house, Falling­wa­ter, which we had vis­it­ed years ago. They even got a pic­ture tak­en not too far from where we went as well (although in Decem­ber it is snow-cov­ered). Appar­ent­ly, Mr. Pitt knows some­thing about archi­tec­ture, and had read about the house in one of his col­lege cours­es. I won­der if this means that they might com­mis­sion some archi­tect to build some­thing real­ly great? What if that became a new fad amongst the Hol­ly­wood élite? After all, they are the new roy­al­ty.

Different Trains: The Vancouver Antique Trolley

We’ve recent­ly been to the Home Show at the Sta­di­um, but the event wasn’t very pho­to­genic (although the Glide­house, a mod­ern pre­fab house that is exact­ly the kind of place we would have built on our land in Ver­mont, had we gone with Plan A — that’s the plan that would have kicked in if Bush and his min­ions had been defeat­ed. Oh well.)
Speak­ing of trains (if the pre­vi­ous entry is still vis­i­ble), on Sat­ur­day around 1 PM we did some­thing that was far more quaint and pho­tograph­able. We took a trip on the last week­end of the year that the Van­cou­ver His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety runs the trol­ley line between Granville Island and Sci­ence World. It’s a short trip in an old (about 80 years or so) trol­ley car, com­plete with com­plete­ly refur­bished wood pan­el­ing, woven cane seats, and some of the orig­i­nal adver­tis­ing in those cards above the win­dows (Let’s go Square Danc­ing on the Trol­ley! — Anoth­er one involved mak­ing pies that were ‘digestible’).

The whole expe­ri­ence was just shy of a Dis­ney­land ride, and the car was full of tourists and par­ents with their chil­dren. The peo­ple who run it also get into the spir­it; one of them was clear­ly wear­ing a han­dle­bar mus­tache, clear­ly enjoy­ing the chance to play dres­sup each week­end dur­ing the sum­mer and fall. I have more pic­tures of our short trip to the 1920s on Flickr. It was a nice way to spend a sun­ny fall after­noon.

The trol­ley also had an inter­est­ing link to the future: In it were details of a pro­pos­al for a street­car that would fol­low some of the same tracks. I would absolute­ly love it, but as some­one point­ed out, the mass tran­sit bud­get (as well as the patience with all of the con­struc­tion and has­sles for it) was pret­ty much being blown by the RAV line I men­tioned in my last entry. A pity, as it would be an incred­i­bly con­ve­nient way for me to go to the east end of down­town, rather than the cur­rent way, which is a bus up Granville and then con­nect­ing with the Sky­train.

Of course, I nev­er met a mass tran­sit con­veyance I didn’t like. Even one that is not much dif­fer­ent than the Teacup ride.