A Meditative Walk 'Round Coal Harbour
Story & Photos by Dianne Maguire
When driving to the Stanley Park causeway we keep our attention focussed on the traffic and often miss the visual treasures to be found along West Georgia Street and in Coal Harbour. Even on foot, we miss those gems tucked into stands of trees and private corners. On a clear day, the walk is worthwhile.
Between Denman and Cardero, on the north side of Georgia, are a set of four apartment towers that look plain and unadorned. On foot, you stroll past a series of rectangular troughs of water that spurts into the air among large square stepping stones, and slides down stone slopes. A block away there is a wonderful surprise opposite the Bidwell T-junction that the passing motorist is unlikely to see. From a circular fountain and a metal slide of overlapping maple leaves, water swishes and drips, to one autumn red symbol of Canada at the bottom of the pool.
Look to see if there are any more delights to be found beyond the spouts and stones of the row of troughs. There is an unexpected sight among the trees between the buildings - a horse and colt, life-sized and in realistic colours. A pathway leads down through the trees to these two perfectly placed sculptures. It is tempting to stroke them. The pathway leads to a quiet street parallel to Georgia. It becomes obvious that the front entrances of the buildings aren’t on West Georgia but on the last block of 1600 Bayshore Drive.
In the curve of the Drive to the right there are double towers at 1650 that has water features on three sides of the buildings. On the left of the front entrance are large pools of gently cascading water merging from one shallow level to another, spaced between slate columns with narrow fountains splashing into the ponds. On the right side, are a pair of pools with spouts creating spray and a quiet gurgle.
Walk back along Bayshore Drive toward Denman and down to the Coal Harbour Walkway to the unusual pair of water features sometimes referred to as the Coal Harbour Water Boy 1 and Water Boy 2. A tall male figure set at the top of a storey-high wet wall, Water Boy 1 faces the Harbour between #150 and #180 retail stores on the walkway. Although it is quite large, the installation is so integrated into the buildings either side of it, you could easily miss it.
The water from the unseen pool behind the statue slips down a tiled surface into a trough. There is a slate panel in the middle of the wall with an inscription: “in the last warmth and the fading of brightness on the sliding edge of the beating sea”. It’s a quote from a poem, "November Walk Near False Creek Mouth" by Earle Birney. The sculpture, by Jacqueline Metz and Nancy Chew, is called "Sliding Edge".
Coal Harbour Water Boy 2 is actually on the other side of the first installation. If you walk up Nicola and turn to 1467 West Hastings, you will find that the large pool behind the Water Boy falls in a wide sheet into the pond and ripples among the rocks and stones at ground level.
On the ledge of the waterfall is a sign that echoes the inscription on Water Boy 1, “On the sliding edge of the beating sea” – but you can usually only see it when the water is turned off in the winter.
This is the time of year to start searching out unusual visual treasures nestled in odd quiet places. The water’s turned on and the gurgle and splashes among the vegetation is perfect for peaceful contemplation.
Dianne Maguire is a freelance writer and novelist who is still fascinated by the hidden visual treasures to be found in and around the West End, even though she has lived in the area for more than twenty years. She plans to write more about her discoveries and favourites in coming months.