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?