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Keep your ironies in the fire

Nov 17, 2009

by Graham McGarva, Principal for VIA Architecture


When one is consumed in the continuing reinvenition that is the craft of city building, long walks help.  So this morning, I detoured on my way into work through False Creek North’s Roundhouse Neighbourhood (which we planned 20 years ago), and past its Community Centre ( a heritage adaptive re-use and expansion that we built 12 years ago), and took in the irony of the imperatives of the “life official” in contrast with the bubbling delight of the youngsters around me going to their inner city school and day care on the False Creek waterfront.  The following is what I saw and wrote:

Fire exit please do not block
We have to let the fire out
Lest it consume us
With its passion for life
Ladies and children stand aside
Douse your thrills and trills
When the fire drills through you
Stand aside and let it pass
Do not let it consume you
Let vacant space be your heritage
Void of fire 24/7 or whatever
10-4 be your emergency
Keep the flame doused inside you
Safe from the armageddon
Of common sense
And thrill of the crowded room
Of private emotions

Better still never get close enough
To let the fire get in

And while you are at it
Keep the tide away
From the foot of the stairs!

P.S. In case you are wondering, it was a major victory to get the park steps to go all the way down to the water’s edge (breaking the prescribed rule of being 1.3 metres above high high tide level with a safety railing) to where once or twice a year the lower pathway would get flooded at an extreme high tide, and the City Parks and Planning Departments always did disagree on what was to be the “front” and the “back” of the Roundhouse.