From The Pointe to Scopes of Sight
Story & Photos by Dianne Macguire
When I was around Broughton and West Pender Place, I became aware of the swishing sound of a water feature somewhere. I returned to the area and discovered The Pointe on the corner of Jervis and Georgia. The front of 1331 West Georgia features large columns, supporting the overhang of the building, set in square shallow pools filled with shale and river rock. The distinctive swish of water comes from terraced pools that go from level to level, down the side of the building and parallel to the sloping sidewalk.
The design incorporates cascades from the sides of the building and lush greenery in the form of well-cared for bushes, adding to the beauty of the setting. The troughs take a final turn to the back of the building, where a spout placed on a high wall issues a constant stream into the last oblong pool.
The Pointe is one of the many outstanding buildings designed by award winning Canadian architect Bing Thom, a son of immigrants from Hong Kong who was educated at UBC and U of California, Berkley. Although we lost this talented man in 2016, his influence lives on in the design of The Butterfly, a building planned for a location between Thurlow and Burrard. Thom’s exceptional talents have also influenced the design of the Tzu Chi Foundation building in progress at 1684 Alberni.
As I turned into Nicola Street, a set of three bold panels caught my eye outside the Take Five Café. They are wedge-shaped structures that rise high above the pavement. The polyurethane panels have lozenge-shaped rising in the middle of each panel. Facing the street, they are painted in yellow and black brushstroke. The side facing the modern building at 1529 West Pender Street are painted blue and white. This sculptural display was sponsored by the Vancouver Public Art Program in 2002.
Clay Ellis, the artist, calls his work “Curtained Skies”, an apt name, as whichever way you look at the panels you see the sky, or see it reflected in the large glass windows on two sides of the setting. The sculptor established his reputation in the 1980s and ‘90s, choosing intense colour pallets and an inventive use of mediums. Originally from Medicine Hat, Alberta, Ellis’s work has been displayed internationally and in 2014 he was inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
I turned away from the Clay Ellis bold panels, looked across the street, and there was the illusive Yellow sculpture of West Pender Place. Set on the deck of 1499 West Pender, around the corner on Nicola Street, the sculpture of yellow planks stretching out from a central pole reminds one of a signpost. The bright yellow is perfect for this setting among strong shades of grey. The sound of the cascade that drops from the side of the deck must draw people to this quiet location.
Further down the sloping Nicola Street is a fascinating installation that I have come across before. On the corner of Nicola and West Hastings Streets is a knoll with trees set in front of the nearest building, and a grassy slope to the pavement from those trees.
At this unusual location is the “Scopes of Sight” sculptural installation by Jill Anholt. It consists of six stainless steel shafts that are stuck into the ground at various angles. They are inspired by exploration devices originally used to find coal on this very site in the mid-19th century.
The glass and metal tubes are periscopes and telescopes which still allow visitors to the site to see collage and even actual views of the site’s past. Jill Anholt, who completed this work in 2002, has created many site specific works for parks and other public art. Her designs reflect her interest in environmental sustainability and in the relationship of nature and infrastructure.