Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver


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January 2019 issue of RCC News is here

Happy new year!

This issue of the RCC News is full of the many wonderful people, events and programs happening in our neighbourhood.

Get your latest issue of the RCC News at your local coffee shop, grocery store, library and community centre.

Or click on the cover image to view the new issue.

In this issue:

  • New trails open up the wonders of Renfrew Ravine
  • Urban Explorer: A day at UBC museums
  • New outdoor gathering place for local seniors
  • Fresh year, fresh start to financial fitness
  • Create a new year habit
  • Inaugural ONE CHALLENGE celebration
  • Perspectives: An Anti-racism Arts Festival
  • MP Don Davies recognizes food security group in Parliament
  • Collingwood Neighbourhood House Recreation Programs Winter 2019 insert

Do you have a local story to tell or an event to share? We’d love to hear about it! Email rccnews-editorial@cnh.bc.ca.

The deadline for the February 2019 issue is January 10. We welcome story submissions from 300 to 400 words long. Accompanying photos must be high resolution in a jpg file at least 1 MB large and include a photo caption and the name of the photographer.

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Renfrew-Collingwood’s humble historic landmark

Collingwood Library

An extraordinary photo of Vancouver Public Library’s Collingwood branch as it appeared before its opening in early July 1951. The glass expanse at the front of the building has since been covered up in a subsequent renovation. Source: Vancouver Public Library, Special Collections, VPL 8856

BY JOHN MENDOZA

This story by John Mendoza reflects his passion for architecture. He brings to life a little-known gem in our neighbourhood with meticulous research and tremendous detail.
I love getting stories like these in my inbox.
John Mendoza tells us that this news story from October 2010 was used by Heritage Vancouver to help defend the library’s inclusion on the 2011 Top Ten Endangered Places list. The Vancouver Heritage Foundation lists Collingwood Library as one of its Places That Matter.
− Julie Cheng, editor

Located at the northwest corner of Kingsway and Rupert Street, the Collingwood branch of the Vancouver Public Library is a colourful hub of activity. However, this humble library branch holds a secret pedigree that elevates it above the 22 other branch libraries in Vancouver.

Unknown to most citizens of Vancouver, the architectural design of the Collingwood branch was designed by two celebrated British Columbian architects and could be the most important example of Modernist architecture found in East Vancouver.

Opened in July 1951, Collingwood Library’s design influenced its community in profound ways. Designed by local architects Harold Semmens and Douglas Simpson, the new building presented a friendly face to the neighbourhood.

In contrast to the imposing, old world bulk of the Carnegie branch at Hastings and Main, the design of Collingwood branch was firmly contemporary. The design reflects the spirit and work of famous Modernist architects: the glass expanse at the front alluded to Mies van der Rohe, the use of stone a reference to Marcel Breuer, the low ceiling entrance an influence of Frank Lloyd Wright. (According to Douglas Simpson’s son, Gregg Simpson, the architect studied under Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West in Arizona.)

Yet due to its “effective scaling and proportioning,” the building presented a welcoming and accessible face to the local community.

According to one source, shortly after its grand opening, Collingwood branch recorded the highest circulation of materials for kids of any branch library in the Vancouver library system. If the architects wanted to create an open and approachable civic building, they succeeded.

The impact of Semmens and Simpson’s branch library design was far-reaching; it influenced the local and even regional architectural scene. The new design quickly attracted the curious, and it soon turned into the most visited Modernist building in Vancouver.

Its influence can even be felt in successive library projects such as M. E. Uttley’s Okanagan Regional Library (1955) and Kenneth Sandbrook’s New Westminster Library (1958).

Because of their work on the Collingwood branch library, Semmens and Simpson were commissioned to design the new central branch of Vancouver Public Library in 1954. Debuting in 1957, their new Modernist library building at Robson and Burrard Street earned praise for its design, winning the 1958 Massey Medal for excellence in Canadian architecture.

Despite this illustrious history, there are no guarantees for this Modernist landmark in East Vancouver. Due to budgetary constraints, the library itself almost closed during the 1990s. Moreover, the history of preserving heritage buildings and Modernist architecture in Vancouver has not been positive. (Ironically, Semmens and Simpson’s award-winning 1957 central library design has lost much of its Modernist features due to a renovation in the last decade.)

In a recent conversation, Gregg Simpson complained about the lurid blue paint that has been slapped on the exterior of Collingwood branch library. Ideally, the original colour of the building should be retained. As Gregg emphatically states, “To restore it to the original colour would be a great service to his legacy.”

Early photos of the building contrasted with the current condition of the building suggest that successive renovations have not been respectful of its architectural status.

The Collingwood branch therefore deserves consideration for its significance in the architectural  design history of Vancouver. It exists as an east side example of local Modernist architecture designed by two acclaimed architects.

If it meets the criteria, the building should immediately be added to the Vancouver Heritage Registry as a rare example of Modernist architecture in East Vancouver.

As the library approaches its 60th anniversary in 2011, recognition is overdue. It would be nice if the library’s building design, layout and interior furnishings could be spruced up in the Modernist spirit, sensitive of course to the library staff and patron Renfrew-Collingwood’s humble historic landmark needs and to budgetary constraints.

Certainly the original colour should be restored and the signage could echo that of 1950s typography. At the very least, proper maintenance should be enforced.

For example, during Vancouver’s general civic strike of 2007, a vehicle crashed into the building, causing damage to the brick work. As of late August 2010, the brick-work damage remains and can still be seen just right of the main entrance.

The library and city should set an example for celebrating the city’s heritage architecture and design, especially in a humble  neighbourhood like Renfrew-Collingwood. Refurbishing this building and many other heritage landmarks in our area is an important step in the preservation of our shared history  and the first step of cultivating an identity for Renfrew-Collingwood. However, it will only occur if the whole community shares this aspiration and does its best to discuss this with others who can help in this goal.

John Mendoza has lived in Collingwood for almost 30 years. He is a teacher and aspiring writer. His interests include travel, reading, art and architecture. First published in the October 2010 issue of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News.

Copyright 2018 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

 


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August 2017 issue of RCC News is here

Renfrew-Collingwood Community News August 2017

This issue of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News is full of the many wonderful people, events and programs happening in our neighbourhood!

Get your latest issue of the RCC News at your local coffee shop, grocery store, library and community centre.

Or click on the cover image to view the new issue.

In this issue:

  • Skytrain Rambler: Evergreen line connects history from Renfrew-Collingwood to Port Moody
  • Lots happening at Still Moon Arts Society
  • Photos of informal learning in Renfrew-Collingwood by John Mendoza
  • Homeless program raising funds in the neighbourhood
  • Shop local farmers markets
  • Gathering of canoes – Photo montage by Penny Lim
  • Read On! Many reasons to love Renfrew-Collingwood by Tony Wanless
  • Latin festival returns to new venues – Swangard Stadium and Rickshaw Theatre

Do you have a local story to tell or an event to share? We’d love to hear about it! Email rccnews-editorial@cnh.bc.ca.

The deadline for the September 2017 issue is August 10. We welcome story submissions from 300 to 400 words long. Accompanying photos must be high resolution in a jpg file at least 1 MB large and include a photo caption and the name of the photographer.


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July 2017 issue of RCC News is here

Renfrew-Collingwood Community News July 2017

This issue of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News is full of the many wonderful people, events and programs happening in our neighbourhood!

Get your latest issue of the RCC News at your local coffee shop, grocery store, library and community centre.

Or click on the cover image to view the new issue.

In this issue:

  • New Il Museo exhibit illuminates the cultural legacy of Italian and Cantonese opera in Vancouver
  • Big Sisters seeks Study Buddy mentors
  • Make it a learning summer in Renfrew-Collingwood
  • MOSAIC moves to Collingwood
  • Reorganized Organ youth art project
  • Windermere students visit Ottawa with Don Davies, MP
  • Art for your heart: New book by local artist Ricardo Arturo Cerna Rivas
  • Have a Still Moon summer!

Do you have a local story to tell or an event to share? We’d love to hear about it! Email rccnews-editorial@cnh.bc.ca.

The deadline for the August 2017 issue is July 10. We welcome story submissions from 300 to 400 words long. Accompanying photos must be high resolution in a jpg file at least 1 MB large and include a photo caption and the name of the photographer.


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May 2017 issue of RCC News is here

RCC News May 2017

This issue of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News is full of the many wonderful people, events and programs happening in our neighbourhood!

Get your latest issue of the RCC News at your local coffee shop, grocery store, library and community centre.

Or click on the cover image to view the new issue.

In this issue:

  • Let’s get outside and celebrate spring!
  • Collingwood Days special insert – New location, same great family fun
  • Bruce Spring Carnival – Now in its 5th year
  • Adult education time machine: History of the Collingwood bookmobile
  • Eating Out in RC: The Captain’s Boil
  • Coastal City Ballet brings Giselle to Vancouver audiences
  • Collingwood Corner: Home delivery in the 1960s
  • Indigenous art project at Windermere: Reconciliation from the ground up

Do you have a local story to tell or an event to share? We’d love to hear about it! Email rccnews-editorial@cnh.bc.ca.

The deadline for the June 2017 issue is May 10. We welcome story submissions from 300 to 400 words long. Accompanying photos must be high resolution in a jpg file at least 1 MB large and include a photo caption and the name of the photographer.


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March 2017 issue of RCC News is here

RCC News March 2017

This issue of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News is full of the many wonderful people, events and programs happening in our neighbourhood!

Get your latest issue of the RCC News at your local coffee shop, grocery store, library and community centre.

Or click on the cover image to view the new issue.

In this issue:

  • Adult education time machine: Photos from Vancouver Archives
  • Eating Out in RC: Sushi Taku
  • Are you registered to vote?
  • March is Nutrition Month
  • Collingwood Corner: Old photos on Facebook
  • Art in Champlain Heights
  • Three Links seeks volunteers with pets to visit seniors
  • Collingwood Branch #48 – Final update

Do you have a local story to tell or an event to share? We’d love to hear about it! Email rccnews-editorial@cnh.bc.ca.

The deadline for the April 2017 issue is March 10. We welcome story submissions from 300 to 400 words long. Accompanying photos must be high resolution in a jpg file at least 1 MB large and include a photo caption and the name of the photographer.


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Skytrain Rambler: Vancouver Art Gallery’s spectacular Picasso exhibit is just a few stops away

Picasso: The Artist and His Muses is now showing at the Vancouver Art Gallery until Sunday, October 2, 2016

Picasso exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery

The Picasso exhibit is showing at the Vancouver Art Gallery until October 2. Photo by Julie Cheng

BY JOHN MENDOZA

If you want to inject a little more creativity and leisure into your life, start with a visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery this summer and check out this show on the first level, and wander around at the other three floors. You might be surprised at the value and pleasure derived from sauntering through an art gallery—you might even leave inspired.

Directions: Take Skytrain on the Expo Line westbound from Joyce/Collingwood station to either Granville Station or Burrard Station. For information on admission rates and opening hours, check http://www.vanartgallery.bc.ca. Admission by donation is Tuesday nights from 5 to 9 pm. If a recent Tuesday in mid-June is any indication, expect long lineups and certainly do not wait until the last minute to see the exhibit.

Let’s go back to October 2010. I’m at the Seattle Art Museum. It’s a monumental art show to say the least. Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musee National Picasso, Paris, takes up the top floor of the museum, and it features artistic highlights from Pablo Picasso. Its placement is apt. It’s right next to the arts of Africa and Oceania; people queued next to a stark display of African masks. (Picasso was influenced by the arts of Africa and Oceania.)

I follow the other museum visitors into the first crowded room. What I discovered was not only the results of an imaginative and unusual artist, but roomfuls of the different ways one can approach life in the name of creativity.

A good example of Picasso’s ability to think creatively was Bull’s Head. The name reflects the idea and shape of the sculpture, but what’s surprising is the medium of the work: a bicycle seat, some handle bars. Picasso had found these items in a pile of garbage in Paris. He simply welded the metal seat to the metal handlebars, mashing together two found objects to create a modern work of art.

There’s something still alien and uncommon about being able to see beauty and potential in discarded objects thought of as trash. Furthermore, sometimes context is everything. Picasso created Bull’s Head in the early 1940s during the Second World War. To create something beautiful is incredibly life affirming, especially in the face of turbulence and turmoil.

In total, I spent four hours looking at Picasso’s art that day in Seattle.

Fast forward to 2016, and the Vancouver Art Gallery in downtown Vancouver is exhibiting Picasso: The Artist and His Muses, a summer exhibition of Picasso’s artworks influenced by the many women in his life.

The pieces come from as close as the collections of the Vancouver Art Gallery and as far away as places like France. One particular artwork supposedly is still in the frame that Picasso himself picked out and is making a rare appearance outside of its usual museum home.

If you ever have been the least bit curious about Picasso’s life and career, it’s definitely a recommended excursion. You’ll find that publicly funded museums and art galleries are not bastions of elitism, but places where all can be transformed by the experience of seeing art.

If you are a night owl, don’t miss their FUSE program where the Vancouver Art Gallery opens late from 8 pm to midnight, and augments their art exhibitions with performance and music. Next one will be Friday, July 15, 2016. And don’t forget the admission-by-donation Tuesday nights from 5 to 9 pm.

John Mendoza is a long-time resident of Renfrew-Collingwood and a regular contributor to the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News.

Copyright (c) 2016 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News