Noticing The Details:
Stories & Photos by Dianne Maguire
(click photos to enlarge)
You know how you see something so often that you think you’re sure you know exactly what it looks like? I discovered that I really didn’t know everything about the Olympic Cauldron for the 2010 Olympics on permanent display in Jack Poole Plaza at the bottom of Thurlow Street. Every time it’s lit to celebrate an anniversary or special event, the image of the four stacked columns illuminated by flames is featured on the news.
What I never noticed until I walked up to the structure was the square pond it is installed over which features a row of 8 or 10 spurts of water, as if the ice is dripping as it melts into the pond. Well worth a quiet stroll by the exhibition halls in the evening is the sight of the ice-like columns lit up in various colours of the Olympic rings.
Set to the right of the grandeur of the Cauldron, and closer to the railings and Burrard Inlet, is the Digital Orca, a 10 meter-tall aluminium sculpture on a stainless steel frame created by Vancouver artist Douglas Coupland in 2009. The large whale, seen at the right angle, looks as if it is jumping out of the water of Burrard Inlet. But your vision seems blurred as the Lego-like components of the structure create the effect of pixels going digital on a screen.
I start to walk up Thurlow Street and quietly standing there on the median at the junction of Cordova and Thurlow is a 4-meter tall semi-abstract bronze female figure. It is a lovely contrast to the modern art of Jack Poole Plaza. On the plinth of the splendid sculpture is a plaque that enlightens us. This is a sculpture that also commemorates the 2010 Olympic and Paraplegic Winter Games. The statue by Greek sculptor Pavlos Angelos Kongioumtzis is of Nike, the Greek Goddess of Victory. It was presented to the Mayor of Vancouver and the Premier of BC at the ceremony held in Greece to start off the torch relay that culminates at the opening of the Games.
The tradition to give a sculpture to each host city began in 1996. Nike wasn’t installed in her current position on Cordova and Thurlow until after the Games because a suitable location couldn’t be found by city staff in time.
Just a few blocks west of the Jack Poole Plaza are a couple of interesting water features.
The first, at 1169 West Cordova St., is in front of a private condo building, and to see it, you have to take a few steps down the gentle sloping driveway that circles the installation. Called the Kryptonite Hot Tub, this modern design is at its best when it has on its evening lights in red, blue and purple, which add sparkle to the chunks of green glass and translucent stone-like cubes held in columns of steel, set in the oval pool. The sides of the pool are frosted glass and feature water jets that create the bubbling sound of a hot tub.
The charming, beautifully designed water installation called the Carina Salmon Stream looks like a mountain stream set in the centre of the circular driveway at 1288 West Cordova. It is fed from sloping sheets of water which fall to a shallow stream faithfully recreated to resemble salmon habitat with appropriate vegetation – alas without the salmon. If you get a chance to walk around the fountain, you may notice the figure of a cheery gardener at work near the building on the far side of the Stream.
Just remember to respect the privacy of the citizens who make this condo home.
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 will be writing more about her discoveries and favourites in the coming months.