Amid the vertical rush of spectacle that is Vancouver, may I praise the most banal, predictable, and deeply reassuring Prominent Landmark?
To see it, look out my window and to the right.
Those are the green-glass towers of Yaletown in the foreground, then Vancouver's great livingroom of a waterway, False Creek. And between False Creek and the layers of city beyond, a little hard pea between the mattresses.
Yes, it's much less appealing from up close. But it is what it is: Science World, Vancouver's perfectly adequate and predictable place where "young people of all ages" can taste the thrill of scientific learning. Most important, it has one of those essential science-museum installations out front: A sculpture in which shiny balls roll about eternally in cleverly designed channels and bowls.
Those red and pink banners beneath the dome have pictures of happy people and giant imperatives like "Discover!" and "Create!" I often pause on the barren colonnade beneath one such enormous 9-year-old girl, to watch the sun set over downtown. It's always a peaceful scene there, long after closing; the roar of the city fades to the oceanic, so that all I really hear are the elevated trains whooshing past, and the seagulls, and the commands of rowing-team captains far out on the water, and the gentle bump-and-ding of the balls in their certain Newtonian paths. There are few better places to perceive that all's for the best in this best of all possible worlds, where even modernist architecture has its God-given place.
But I enjoy Science World more from further away, as I suspect many Vancouverites do. It sits comfortably in all kinds of urban compositions, the perfect roundness that throws perfect squareness out of line. With Science World on the table, a skyline can become a still life.