It’s a Thursday evening and we’ll all on the 236, heading to one of the great places in the Lower Mainland: Grouse Mountain.
No surprise: the bus is packed with snowboarders, most having transferred from the SeaBus at Lonsdale Quay. They’re a multilingual crew, mixed in with the tourists and commuters from ‘over town,’ not many over 30, heading for the snow-covered slopes some can see from their apartments.
The 236 is one of those ‘You know you’re in Vancouver’ kind of places: public transit from tidewater to mountain top in twenty-eight minutes. I suppose there are kids from Korea to Cologne who have fond memories of taking the 236 at the end of the day, exhausted, elated and maybe in love. If there’s an iconic image in their heads, along with the lights of the city from the slopes above, it’s of a bus named Grouse.
But, oddly, not the place at the top of the mountain – and by that I mean the lodge.
Quick: what comes to mind when you think of the Grouse Mountain lodge? – the place with the ski shop, the restaurants, the washrooms, the theatres, the place where you assemble to meet your friends, whether from the ski slopes or the Grind, to take the gondola back down. Probably nothing.
So try image searching for ‘Vancouver Grouse Mountain Lodge’ or “The Peak of Vancouver.” Here’s what you get:
Sorry, the image in the upper left doesn’t count: it’s from Whitefish, Montana. There are a few shots of the interior of the main building – but nothing particularly memorable. Which unfortunately is the best description of what should be an architectural icon, a truly memorable place, given its location. (Map here.)
There are great mountain lodges in the Pacific Northwest – several built during the Depression, notably Timberline near Portland. And of course there are the great chateau hotels of Canada and so many at Whistler they all seem to merge.
But where there should be one overlooking one of the most beautiful settings in the world: blah.
Rather, the icon of Grouse is not a building, not even the new wind turbine, but this:
A form of transportation – in turn connected to the 236, connected to the SeaBus, connected to Waterfront Station, connected to the SkyTrain.
When it comes to doing icons, that’s what we’re good at: the way of getting to places, not so much the places themselves.