An Eight Year Old Perspective

by Richard Leong, VIA Architecture

Background info for this post:

“The current trend of density and downtown living has left me thinking of a more simple time, less complicated, perhaps naïve and due to traces of synaptic loss, slightly idealized. What is written is a stream of consciousness memory/reaction that I have culled from the back alleys of my memory…”

The imagery is a metaphor for the fact that in Vancouver, and maybe in Seattle as well, that the natural surroundings overpower the architecture. How do we reconcile this? Can we make architecture stand out? When thinking of community, place and neighbourhood, what is it that brings forth the fondest of memories? What can we do as architects, planners, and designers to make something that the public can make their own?

With the mist clearing, the scene unfolds with vivid colours of emerald greens, ultramarine blues in battle with dreary greys, and hue upon hue of cooler greys. Once in a while a warmer grey appears but this is a rare occurrence. The paranoid skies erupt with the crying of clouds and a sudden splashing of raining rain beats down, but as I have said earlier the skies are untrusting and do not maintain any sort of consistency. Within minutes, the streaming sunlight and the nakedness of the sun is exposed in all of its glory. Mountains emerge with their dotted viridian trees and in the foreground bright orange red cranes are thrust into one's field of vision. These cranes are loud at times and they pluck their large loads with reckless abandon from the awaiting barges and docked ships. Sure, these cranes are huge, they're gigantic chairs, but compared to the background, an endless palette of coastal mountains, these manmade structures are miniscule. Although as tiny as they are, I still stare at them in awe.

Before I forget, there are also the railroad tracks that run between the back alley of the laundromat and the site of the cranes. The sound of these tracks with the stainless grinding of steel against steel would lull me to sleep night after night. Of course the blaring horn was loud and the signal crossing would ring into the night but when you got used to it, it was like a warm glass of milk before bedtime. I did mention the laundromat across the street didn't I? I don't remember the name of the girl whose parents were the owners. It was years ago, but oh how we played...running up and down the alleys and near the tracks and pedalling furiously on our three wheeled chariots across the streets.

The longshoremen knew our names and would always say hi at quitting time. They would give us spare change to buy ice cream or something every now and then. I guess it was every second Friday or something like that. Off to the corner store we would go. The ice creams were always good and usually I would get the ice cream sandwich. I would get two and give one to my younger sister. The laundromat girl would get a bag of assorted jellies or candies. I can't believe that I don't remember her name. As I said, the ice creams were good but you had to really concentrate to taste them because your nose would wander off and sniff the wafting breeze that was lightly scented with salmon, probably sockeye.

At night it wasn't just the trains and trackyards that interrupted the peace, sometimes for months at a time, there would be the heavy sound of fans or other machinations from the fish processing plant, the cannery. This would happen without fail year after year during the salmon season. Well, I could go on but the mind is starting to wander, hey look...a new condo development taking over the site of that historic little motel...

This is the city that I remember, the village of my childhood...and how times have changed.

Image links: Image 1, Image 2