An oasis of calm at the Harbourside Park apartments.

Story & Photos by Dianne Maguire
(click on photos to enlarge)

I always find something interesting when I follow the sound of water playing in a fountain of some kind. At the corner of Broughton and West Hastings I could hear that familiar splash, and in a minute or two I came upon a truly splendid installation set between two residential towers. These are the Harbourside Park apartments between Broughton and Jervis, facing Coal Harbour from above the Coal Harbour Community Centre.

The large area between the buildings invites residents and passersby to enjoy nature in the circle-within-a-square space. The fountain itself is in a raised square pool with planters which divide the surrounding black slate semi-circular seats. Beyond the fountain itself, larger semi-circular seats have Art Deco styled street lights placed to best invite evening strollers.

Harbourside Park is the creation of Canadian architect and urban planner Arthur Erickson. He is best known in Vancouver for his award-winning designs of the Museum of Anthropology at UBC and the Vancouver Law Courts and Robson Square Plaza with the ice rink. About the Law Courts, he is reputed to have said, “This won’t be a corporate monument. Let’s turn it on its side and let people walk all over it.” He described the concept as “a linear urban park, importing nature into the city.”

Egyptian infused minimalism at the Cielo apartment building.

I walked further along West Hastings, for  a block or so, until I glimpsed two golden orbs shaped like Christmas tree ornaments ahead of me.  By the time I got to Bute I was looking up at a black and white granite plinth set firmly in the pavement in front of 1205 West Hastings, the Cielo building. This striking piece of public art is by artist Alan McWilliams, known for his award-winning Royal Canadian Navy monument in Ottawa. His bold designs reflect the minimalist movement of the 1960’s combined with a flare for Egyptian influence in design and choice of materials - hence the black and white granite paired with the gold leaf on the decorative ornaments or, as someone has suggested – perfume flasks.

Dogs and walkers can enjoy the trees and lawns at Harbour Green Park.

The Cielo apartment building is worth having a look at: Architects Barry Vance Downs and Richard Archambault were honoured by the City of Vancouver for “Environmental  Sustainability” because the Cielo was the first geothermal energy-efficient residential tower in Vancouver. Built in 2007, it features a heat exchange system. There is also a water feature outside the lobby that adds soothing sounds to mask the traffic noise as you contemplate the humour implied by the tall bold sculpture on the other side of the building’s entrance.

Nike, Greek Goddess of Victory, rises over Cordova Street.

I turned left on Bute and almost went into the Urban Fare, so conveniently placed for the Cielo apartment residents.  Then I crossed West Cordova to Harbour Green Park. This on-leash dog park offers trees and benches and grass lawns staked out with Art Deco style pillars topped with pyramids. Harbour Green Park is the longest continuous waterfront park in the downtown area, originally opened in 1997. If you walk toward the harbour, and look down over the wall, or step down to the seawall, you’ll see the water park designed to cool off children with sprays of water in the summer. It too has Art Deco details that echo the style of the park.

Back on West Cordova, I head towards a familiar bronze statue set on a median that separates Cordova Street. The tall bronze figure of a winged goddess is Nike, the goddess of Victory in the Greek culture. I’ve mentioned it before in a piece I did about the Olympic Cauldron and other features at the Jack Pool Plaza. If you aren’t too busy looking at her, turn right and walk over to the park that features an architectural structure from a time gone by.  

Portal Park and its Pavilion mark the north entrance to the Canadian Pacific Railway Tunnel, which was opened in 1932. The tunnel was used to move freight trains across the downtown peninsula. It is now used by the Skytrain.

The park was opened in 1986 and the arched roof of the pavilion that protects the decorative tiles of its floor brings to the area a reminder of the imposing design of yesteryear. Alas, this isn’t the best time of year to view the pavilion and park, as the brilliant red of the Japanese maple trees has disappeared for the winter.