Six-metre art harms condos, deported to Calgary

Upside-Down Church, Vancouver

If you were to take the sterility and coldness of a walk-in clinic and apply it to community design, the result would be Coal Harbour. Situated in Vancouver’s downtown north-end, the C.H. is an underpopulated zone of melamine and glass — a barren IKEA showroom laid out as a neighbourhood. For the longest time, I thought nobody lived there. Sure, there are lots of condos, but walk around at night and the lights are never on.

The one thing I like about Coal Harbour is a world-renowned piece of public art — a sculpture that most locals have come to know as The Upside-Down Church. It’s the kind of cool, controversial art installation you remember. As a conversation-starter and meeting place, it’s first rate.

But don’t go looking for it now. The piece is gone. A victim not of controversy, but the Vancouver real estate machine. From the Globe and Mail:

While some U.S. Christians denounced the sculpture as blasphemous, the problem in Vancouver wasn’t so much religion as it was real estate. Residents of the spiffy Coal Harbour neighbourhood complained that the more than six-metre-tall (and wide) statue obstructed their scenic view. The Park Board agreed.

John Bromley with Benefic Group, the philanthropy-focused law firm in Vancouver that owns the sculpture, didn’t. “The condos seem to block the water more than the sculpture does,” he says.

And with that, the sculpture is off to Calgary. Bromley says Vancouver doesn’t deserve the benefit of the piece anywhere in the city. Essentially, if Vancouver were a true world-class city, it wouldn’t hold such a callous view of public art.

Bromley’s right. And once again, Vancouver fails to live up to its own ambitions. In a choice between condos and culture, condos rule. World-class, my ass.

But hey, the views are good, aren’t they?

22 Responses to “Six-metre art harms condos, deported to Calgary”

  1. Dale Says:

    This makes me so furious…and it takes a lot to get me going!

  2. aetakeo Says:

    Seriously? My kids are going to be disappointed. They loved the “upside-down house”.

  3. Paul Says:

    This had way less to do with condos than it did moral objections from citizens from all corners of the city. It doesn’t block any views except those from the plaza. The moral objections are BS imho.

    Agreed though, that a major Vancouver weakness is that we give too much weight to the voices of the NIMBYS and BANANAs.

  4. duran Says:

    This is simply atrocious. Having recently been to Melbourne, it’s truly apparent that we suck with the amount of public spaces and public art we have available in this city. This is right up there with the decision to expand traffic capacity on Granville St. when it’s done. Where the hell are the things that are supposed to get people out of their damn condos? Why don’t we also have at least one pedestrian only street or a big square?? Why aren’t there things in this city that help to encourage dialogue with one another? Oh, but wait, we don’t want to detract attention from our lovely views of trees and water. Let’s just drive our Canyonaro SUVs every weekend to the great outdoors, in this, “the Best Place On Earth”.

  5. Gilles Barbeau Says:

    Agree 100% with all the comments above. I’m so disappointed to see that piece of art leave. Shame on the Park Board.

  6. MJ Says:

    In a choice between condos and culture, condos rule. World-class, my ass.

    That sentiment rings true, in a nut-shell. Vancouver has turned into a parochial little town with not much to show for the hype but over-priced housing and indulgent egos to match. Good thing we have fabulous weather to make up for it.

  7. Ds7777 Says:

    its a real shame…we have had 5 international visitors in the last 5 months since we’ve moved to vancouver, and we took them all to coal harbour, and without even pointing it out, they loved the upside-down church, following it with gazes and photos. we’re going to miss this.

  8. Sally Money Says:

    I love that sculpture. What is it with this city? How does a little sculpture ruin the view from the condos? This is embarrassing.

  9. jesse Says:

    World class indeed. You know who the park board members are.

  10. Larry Yatkowsky Says:

    Will we ever crawl out of Parks Board mud?

    Until then friends, hang upside down in prayer for the dearly departed.

  11. Jack Says:

    What the F*** is up with Vancouver people.

  12. EventHorizon Says:

    Philistines! I reside in CH and FWIW will sorely miss DeviceToRootOutEvil…

  13. J'Ro Says:

    The people who live around that “park” — really a few hundred square metres of grass — were forced to look at that thing. Regardless of its name, if someone objects to the image of an upside-down church, it’s not the place of the parks board to make sure that’s what they see from their kitchen windows, livingroom windows, bedroom windows.

    Free speech and public art are great, but not when they’re forced into people’s daily home lives. That crosses the line from free speech into invasion of privacy.

    The Parks Board should simply have moved the sculpture to a true park. Removing it from the city entirely, well, refer to many of the above comments, with which I agree.

  14. Paul Says:

    Like it or not, J’Ro, that plaza IS a true park.

    Removing it on the basis of view impediment from an adjacent private property could certainly be called an invasion of “publicy”.

  15. 604grant Says:

    A lot of strippers and escorts live in Coal Harbour. Maybe that’s what the upside-church was supposed to symbolize.

  16. carbo Says:

    Here is the article in the Calgary Herald celebrating the arrival of this artwork:

    http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/news/story.html?id=8f5ac94f-33a8-4bb0-9fcb-d84150fb85c3

  17. Bubble Lad Says:

    Wow. How sad is it when Calgary is hipper than us? Talk about upside down.

  18. tweet Says:

    what gets me is that they recently put in a truly ugly piece on the corner of hastings and bute by urban fair.

    black and white striped marble rectangular base with two gold balls on top… at least some meaning could be found in an upside down church, however controversial it was.

  19. maikopunk Says:

    Maybe they removed the DeviceToRootOutEvil because it clearly wasn’t working. Too much money and too few minds in the neighbourhood – art never had a fighting chance to take root.

  20. blah blah Says:

    Last summer, there was a contest to keep one of the numerous biennale sculptures permanent. It only required a simple visit to the website to submit a vote. This sculpture did not win.

    The biggest problem that I see here is that people actually think this sculpture is controversial. With 30% of our population either not believing or not caring for religion, and the rest of the population split between all of the other religions, we have an incredibly non-religious population. No one cares about dessimating God. Controversy is striking at values that people actually stand for. So where’s the controversy?

  21. Airdrie Condos Says:

    Man, I wish I could have seen it. I’m heading up that way next week.

  22. Does Vancouver Hate Art « CondoFeed Says:

    […] seems that Vancouver has a hate on for public art installations.  In 2008 they booted the “upside down church” (actually named Device to Root Out Evil) from their waterfront. A 6 meter (compared to the 200m […]

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