Glass CityReflecting the weather
As the sun goes down on a sunny day, the shimmering buildings turn gold and yellow.
Clouds blanket this city for most of the year, and rain is a constant. Their heavy presence mutes Vancouver, fog lingering between its abundance of evergreen trees. Some days the rain falls gently and aimlessly, droplets settling on leaves and in hair. Other days, the rain rushes down, feeding narrow rivers that run along the sides of the streets and into the gutters. When the sun is out, the shimmering towers might well reflect the brilliant blues of the ocean and sky, but with so much precipitation, a palette of whites and greys is more usual. Coloured umbrellas dot the slick downtown streets as workers and tourists pop in and out of coffee shops and sushi restaurants. Eager cyclists clad in waterproof gear cut through the miniature streams forming in the streets. Women carrying mats duck into yoga studios for a morning session. A series of bridges and small ferries carry cars and people over water to the centre.
From afar, downtown Vancouver is a compact, shimmering cluster of steel and glass. Sitting on a peninsula, the coastal city’s core appears to rise directly out of the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Steep, snow-dusted mountains frame the modern skyscrapers, hotels, and condo towers. Local author and artist, Douglas Coupland, famous for writing outlandish novels set in his hometown, calls Vancouver the City of Glass. In his book of the same name, he explains how the city’s definitive style of architecture, one that favours glass and steel over brick or stone, was influenced by a hunger for light. The rows of slender, near identical towers have floor to ceiling windows on every level, offering wide open views of mountains and inlets. The odd historical building made of brick interrupts the feeling of newness in much of Vancouver, out of place in a sleek city of blue, green, white and grey.
Early in the morning, Vancouver is wet, grey and fresh. Walking north in the downtown core, towards the Burrard Inlet, the wind gets gusty and salty. Seaplanes bound for nearby Vancouver Island take off from the harbour, banking over coastal mountains that have a navy blue hue in the early morning light. On the waterfront, visitors cluster around another Douglas Coupland contribution to the city; a sculpture created to look like a digital rendering of an orca whale. Gulls squawk overheard. To the west is Stanley Park, full of trails and century old trees, that was once home to the region’s coastal indigenous peoples. Stumps and fallen boughs are covered with bright green moss. The park is almost completely surrounded by water, and swift runners and mothers pushing strollers travel the seawall that circles its outer edge. Stretching out from Stanley Park is the Lions Gate Bridge, the three lane suspension bridge connecting the downtown core to the mountains to the north, home to suburbs and ski hills. Heavy tankers and cruise ships back from Alaska pass under it on their way in and out of the harbour. Skiers strap equipment to the roofs of their cars, bound for the twisting highway that will take them to Whistler.
As the sun goes down on a sunny day, the shimmering buildings turn gold and yellow. The day ebbs away, and lights dot the Vancouver skyline, shining brightly from big windows in tall towers. For the briefest of moments, the city appears as if on fire as the towers of glass reflect the reds and oranges of the setting sun. Pleasure seekers eat gelato in English Bay, and sit in the sand until the sun and its light, finally slips behind the mountains.