Discovering Quiet Corners In A Bustling Neighbourhood

Photos and story by Dianne Maguire
(click on photos to enlarge)

I’ve saved some of my favourite spots for last. Having collected water features, sculptures and interesting artistic items around the West End since May 2017, I’ve just about run out of appropriate walks for my readers.

Japanese Still Flowing Garden.

Even before that May, I discovered a serene place hidden behind the building called the Presidio at 2088/90 Barclay Street. I was walking along the path from the Parks Board building on Beach Avenue in English Bay, which runs parallel to Park Lane as far as Barclay Street. About two thirds the way along this path, you can hear the gentle flow of water. A quick look over the wall that hides the water feature and you will discover the Japanese Still Flowing Garden: three terraces of slow moving water that slips between water plants and squared rocks. Surrounded by trees in this spot, there is usually no traffic or playful children to disturb the soothing watery quiet of the garden.

Heron on the beach.

Relatively new to English Bay are the charging stations for electric cars. I expected these functional metal boxes to be an eyesore, but was delighted to discover the photographic murals that cover the sides of the stations. My favourite is located across from 1600 Beach Avenue at Cardero, where there is a parking area that runs parallel to the avenue. A majestic blue heron looks out at the bay, all calm and serene. It so commands your attention that it takes a moment to realize what is hidden behind the heron.

Stone artworks along the shore.

As you walk along the seawall and gaze out to sea, you will often find the stone creations left on the rocks nestled in the sand, washed by the gentle waves from the bay. There used to be many of these sculptures made of stones collected on the shore and placed carefully atop one another to appeal to passersby. The first ones to appear many years ago were created by a young man visiting Vancouver, who was grateful for the help with food and shelter offered by compassionate people in the area. The sculptures were his thank you. The tradition is kept alive by others.

Orca leaping on a Beach Avenue wall.

In recent years, a mural has appeared on the wall of the Penthouse Towers that runs along Beach Avenue, from the underground parking lot to where the road turns up to the junction of Jervis and Pacific. The eye catcher is a magnificent orca leaping up into a richly painted red and yellow sunset. The artist is Paul Archer, well known for his skillful use of subtle gradations developed with airbrush techniques.

Archer’s works have been showcased at the Vancouver Airport, the Planetarium and the Aquarium. He has created paintings and murals for famous musicians and performers like Lady Gaga, Sting, and Sarah McLachlan. Clearly the orca is in good company.

Wander further down Beach Avenue toward the Aquatic Centre.

Alvar Turquoise.

Once again you will hear the gentle splash of water before you see the water feature at 1005 Beach Avenue. Sometimes referred to as Alvar Turquoise, the shallow pool lined with turquoise tiles wraps around the entrance of the twenty-nine story apartment building, built in 2004 by architects from Laurence Doyle Young & Wright.

On the right of the building, the water slides down the turquoise tiled wall, from a small pool one storey up. Something about the peacefulness of this setting draws me to the gate to listen to that gentle splash.

It’s the peaceful, thought-provoking places that appeal to me the most. I admire the splendid and the fascinating – but the quiet places in a big city are precious and the most needed. As I’m surrounded by the noise of new buildings being erected, I know that there will be new fountains and statuary for me to write about in the future.

In the meantime, I shall be talking to the Artists Among Us about their inspirations and techniques.