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June 13, 2007

Victoria, 2007

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

This is in response to popular demand for pictures of Victoria, BC in comments to my previous post. Well, in response to Michael's comment -- hereabouts, that is popular demand.

Victoria Gallery

This is the view from our window on our 10-12 June visit to Victoria.

At the end of Victoria's Inner Harbour is the Empress Hotel, opened in 1908. It still pretty much sets the architectural tone for the harbor area. It was one of the Canadian Pacific's marvelous hotels sited from Quebec to Victoria. The part with the Ivy is the original section, to the right is the first major addition. The newest part is barely visible at the left. The Empress is now part of the Fairmont chain.

The interior of the oldest part contains plenty of dark, varnished wood, reflecting the hotel's Victorian / Edwardian origins. A popular attraction is afternoon High Tea.

This is the harborside across the street from the Empress. Street performers are in action on the wide sidewalk during the high tourist season.

Not far from the previous scene is where passenger-service float plane terminals are found. Water-based aircraft arrive and depart frequently during the day.

Inner Harbour moorages are busy too. Many of the visiting boats are non-trivial, as the photo shows. The background building framed by the boats is the newest wing of the Empress.

Kitty-corner from the Empress is the Pariament or Legislative building. This picture was taken during a Royal Canadian Legion ceremony. Canada once had a significant military that was allowed to decline to an empty shell in the Trudeuapian era.

Parliament dome is to the left and to the right is the Grand Pacific Hotel, a fairly new building that echoes the Empress' architecture in a modern vein.

Across the Inner Harbour is the Delta Resort, which also offers a modernized take on the Empress. Note the stylized domelet that pays homage (in a small way) to Parliament. The boat in the foreground is a harbor taxi.

Not all of Victoria's newer buildings are Victorian. This picture shows condominiums or apartments farther out the harbor area. The buildings in the foreground have traditional touches, but the larger structures behind them, besides destroying the scale of the neighborhood, are in the dull, modernist style.

Nor are all tourist attractions architectural. Around 20 miles north of town is the famous Butchart Gardens. In 1900 the area pictured was a quarry. Also on the grounds are Japanese, Italian, Rose and other themed gardens. My wife is a huge fan and almost never misses Butchart when she visits Victoria.



posted by Donald at June 13, 2007


I like "Trudeaupian."

Tks for the photos. Also a great reminder of how seriously British parts of B.C. can be. As I swung through the province some years back (and I loved it),I kept running into guys named Colin and Nigel, wearing Bermuda shorts and knee-high socks. Despite the hyper-western landscape, they seemed to take their connection to the mother country far more seriously than people in Toronto do. I wonder why.

Anyway, looks like a very civilized and pleasing trip.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on June 13, 2007 11:16 PM

The landscape may be hyper-western, but those skies look veddy English to me. Gray!

Posted by: Lester Hunt on June 13, 2007 11:57 PM

Similar climate, similarly maritime, similar frustration with Frogs?

Posted by: dearieme on June 14, 2007 6:18 AM

Donald, about those new buildings in the second to last photo: I think it's the the "victorian touches" ones that are dull and unimaginative.
It would be much better to have a contrast of a really traditional (not "as if" traditional) building next to a shiny glass structure.
Frankly, the pseudo-traditional residential building on the right (the 6-or7-story) is much uglier than its neighbor the glass condo.

Posted by: Tatyana on June 14, 2007 9:01 AM

Michael -- "Trudeaupian" is a word cooked up by the amazing Mark Steyn. I used it without attribution in the hope of making it more common. I think Steyn is right when he ties Canada's current failings to all those "improvements" P.E.T. instigated while in power.

Tat -- Agreed that the foreground buildings are not Great Architecture. But I find them "amusing" and somewhat in keeping with the English theme nearby. Given that setting, I think it would have been nice if the large, new structures had gone along with the theme too. Other new, larger building downtown are the (yawn) glass 'n' steel 'n' concrete sorts of things one can see anywhere. Hints of them are visible behind the Empress in the picture featuring boats.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on June 14, 2007 9:16 AM

Donald, you of all people should understand contrast. Plain glass buildings are like white-washed walls of an art gallery where polychrome paintings of 1900's are on display.
And now, for comparison, picture that same gallery papered with vynil wallcovering imitating Tudor tapestry on faux marble background. And the good paintings are still there.
Which setting would you like?

Posted by: Tatyana on June 14, 2007 9:56 AM

Tat -- All contrasts are not created equal. Hmm. I think I feel an essay developing.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on June 14, 2007 11:31 AM

No, they're not. But I'm talking of this choice, and it's exactly what I described in my previous comment.

These horrible, fake and cheap post-modern concoctions that fead on people's ornament fetish - that's what being built up, increasingly, under the "new urbanist'label. They will bloviate at length about necessity of preserving historical legacy, incorporating elements of periodic styles into popular architecture, continuance of tradition - and then their overpriced communities will pop up, filled with pseudo-tudor rooflines on a basic brick box, "colonials" with too-thin-for-a-house-bulk fiberglass columns, and steel railings with itallianate ballusters on a Spanish vernacular structures. See this recent South Florida example.

It's either that - or a plain as a bagel glass prism. At least it's clean-lined and not psychotic.
I don't understand, why there are no other choices - or other choices are so insignificant in total output. But that's what mass market situation is.

Posted by: Tatyana on June 15, 2007 12:29 PM

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