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 cooperation 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 elite? 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.