October 2012. Early morning in Vancouver, British Columbia, viewed from my guest bedroom on an upper story of one of the city's many soaring towers. A painting: watercolor, but all shades of silver. Tall metallic and glass skyscrapers whose roofs nearly touch low low-lying clouds, and the clouds layers of silvery gray that mimic the buildings below. Light filters slowly through the density to still waters below. Seagulls call, also shades of silver. Street lamp lights on the bridges, still illuminated, seem nearly gold in contrast.
The only spots of color are the autumn leaves of trees scattered on the landscape like thicker brush strokes. Parks abound, punctuated by the amazing Stanley Park, gigantic and serence [reminds me so much of Central Park.] A siren suddenly pierces the silence and dissipates just as quickly. I watch and listen from above the fray in one of the thousands of apartments that rise form earth to sky in this city of silver. As if dropped into the painting as minor characters.
Down on the ground, in older neighborhoods and near the commercial core, facades are shades of brown and taupe, a neutral palette with a hint of pink, as if reflected in sunset, and pedestrians provide further color, although both seem accent colors, like the trees and the stunning glimpses of mountains to the east, snow-capped just last night. These spots of color seem to have been tossed into the mix as an afterthought, a scene that interior designers or set decorators might want to revise to protect the purity of the scene.
Beyond the three bridges that cross the bay, more affluent suburban neighborhoods abound, so strikingly low in height they seem to belong to another place, surrounded like the city by walking and biking paths, parks and beaches. The lush grounds of the University at the end of a promontory provides a perfect place for intellectual contemplation and discourse [made me want to go back to school, yet again.]
The city built some of its expanding skyline for the 1986 world’s fair, a giant silver globe an iconic image of that turning point, and added to the infrastructure for the 2010 Olympics, whose global village is now a residential community on the waterfront, smaller buildings with a hint of color that reflect its youthful heritage.
Whatever the accent colors and alternating geometric facades, Vancouver is a silver city of the future – tall slender buildings interspersed with low connecting structures to protect the view corridor, a place where each resident adds their own colors. Amazing library, lovely museum, great restaurants, wonderful public transport, and a lovely walking city. An impressive quality of life, and one pays for the privilege. These Western Canadians know how to do it right.
Thanks to my friend Brian Jackson, the city’s head of planning, for being the world’s best and most gracious tour guide.