Waterfront Attractions by and in the Vancouver Convention Centre

Canada Place (2)

The pier beside the Vancouver Convention Centre East

The Vancouver Convention Centre is located by the waterfront in the downtown area of the city. It’s far more than a place for meetings. The centre and its immediate surroundings have some interesting features as well as attractions for the general public. The area is a very enjoyable place to visit.

The convention centre consists of a western and an eastern building, which are located close to each other. They are part of a waterfront complex that is well worth exploring. Identifying the different parts of the complex may be a bit confusing for a first-time visitor because the area contains multiple buildings and attractions. Wandering randomly from place to place in the area is a fun way to explore, but if someone wants to see a specific attraction understanding the layout of the area is useful.

Canada Place Overview (2)

Canada Place

The photo above shows Canada Place, where the eastern building of the convention centre is located. As seen when moving from west to east (or from left to right in the photo), Canada Place consists of the Vancouver Convention Centre East, the World Trade Centre office tower, the Pan Pacific Hotel (whose entrance is under the dome in the photo), and the WestPark parking facility just beyond the hotel. Orientation in Vancouver is easy if the mountains can be seen. They represent the north.

A pier with a promenade is located next to the convention centre, as shown in the first photo in this post. The pier has its own set of attractions, including cruise ship terminals, five huge sails, a ride called FlyOver Canada, the Coal Harbour Cafe, and the entrance to a part of the convention centre that contains some interesting totem poles.


A scene on the promenade of the pier

I always enjoy seeing the totem poles in the eastern building of the convention centre when I visit downtown Vancouver. The middle pole is very tall and extends up to the ceiling of the next floor of the convention centre. According to the information on the plaque that accompanies it, the pole was carved around 1900 by Yakuglas, who was also known as Charlie James. The figures on the pole tell the story of Chief Sisa-Kaulas of Alert Bay. This community is located on Vancouver Island. The pole belonged to the chief.

Totem photoone

Totem poles in the Vancouver Convention Centre

The pole was once located at Brockton Point in Stanley Park.  The area has a very popular display of totem poles. Many of them are carefully constructed replicas of historical originals. The originals have been sent to indoor areas where they are not subjected to erosion by the environment. Like the originals, the replicas were created by First Nations artists. The First Nations are a group of indigenous people in Canada.

Totem display

Another view of the totem pole display

The two smaller sculptures were carved in 1972 by Art Sterritt. They were commissioned by Sun Life of Canada (an insurance company) and made in the Gitxsan style. The Gitxsan people live in northwestern British Columbia. Like the big pole, each of the small ones shows animal crests of a particular clan. It’s interesting to try to interpret the meaning of the items on the poles.

wood totem pole

One of the smaller totem poles

Walking along the paved area in front of the strip of water where cruise ships dock takes an explorer to the Vancouver Convention Centre West and the Bon Voyage Plaza. The paved area is officially known as the Harbour Concourse. The plaza is located beside part of the convention centre. Here the lowest level of the building is composed of food services and stores.

“The Drop” sculpture is located at the end of the plaza. It was created in 2009 by Inges Idee, a group of German artists. It looks like a huge, blue raindrop that has just touched the ground and not yet collapsed. The sculpture is made of steel that is covered with Styrofoam and an outer layer of blue polyurethane. A rain drop is an appropriate subject for a sculpture because Vancouver gets quite a lot of rain.

Bon Voyage

Bon Voyage Plaza

I know the western convention centre best for the huge revolving globe hanging from the ceiling just inside the entrance. I also know it as the location of the annual TED conference in the spring. TED stands for technology, education, and design. The organization says that its mission is to “spread ideas”. A major way in which it does this is by inviting influential people, knowledgeable ones, or people with important ideas to give presentations to an audience.


The Vancouver Convention Centre with its revolving globe as viewed from outside the building

The TED conferences are far too expensive for me to attend, but it’s interesting to watch the crowds in the area during a conference and to glean bits of information about what is happening inside the building. News and website reports are informative and sometimes a live video of a particular speaker is shown at a community centre or library.

TED is classified as a not-for-profit organization. The fees for attending their conferences are used at least in part to support their efforts to spread great ideas. They believe that a powerful idea can change the world.


The revolving globe as seen inside the Vancouver Convention Centre West

The Digital Orca sculpture is located on the other side of the western convention centre. It’s found in the Jack Poole Plaza. The sculpture stands against a beautiful backdrop of Burrard Inlet, Stanley Park, and the Coast Mountains. It was created by Douglas Coupland in 2009.

As one moves further away, the blocks in the orca (or killer whale) seem to join and eventually become invisible. As one approaches, the blocks emerge again. These effects were one goal of the sculptor as he created the orca. I’ve used one of my photos of the sculpture as the featured image at the top of most of the pages on this site.


The digital orca sculpture in Vancouver

The photo below shows a closer view of the back of the sculpture. The western building of the convention centre is on the left, downtown Vancouver is in the background, and more of Jack Poole Plaza is located on the right. Jack Poole was a businessman who was the head of Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Olympics bid committee. The committee was successful. Sadly, Poole died of pancreatic cancer shortly before the Olympics began.


The back of the digital orca sculpture and a view of downtown Vancouver

The Olympic Cauldron is located in Jack Poole Plaza just to the west of the Digital Orca. It was created for the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics and was lit throughout the event. Today it’s only lit for special events. The cauldron is ten metres tall. The arms are made of steel that is covered by polycarbonate and furnace glass. Parabolic mirrors are located below the covering, which causes the arms to glisten like ice. The cauldron stands in a pool that has an attractive fountain.

Olympic cauldron

The Olympic Cauldron

Several routes from the areas described above lead to a waterfront walking and cycling path. The path goes to Stanley Park and forms part of the Seaside Greenway. As its name suggests, although it travels through a city, the greenway is bordered by greenery such as trees, flower containers, and small parks. It provides a lovely view of the water.

The Harbour Flight Centre is located near the western building of the convention centre. The sea planes offer people flights to various places in British Columbia and to Seattle. I and many other people enjoy watching the planes take off.


The start of the Seaside Greenway

The Vancouver Convention Centre West is known for its green roof. According to the centre’s website, the roof contains 40,000 indigenous plants and grasses from 25 plant species that grow in the Pacific Northwest. The roof occupies four acres and has four beehives used by European honeybees. Some of the plants on the roof support both the honeybees and native bees.

In the summer, the roof garden is irrigated with water from the centre’s black water treatment plant, which collects water from washrooms. The green area is not accessible by the public, though it can be seen from locations outside the building, including the Seaside Greenway. It’s good to know that the garden has environmental benefits.

green roof

The green roof of the convention centre as seen from the Seaside Greenway

I’ve been to the convention centre and its surroundings multiple times, but the visit is always enjoyable. There’s nearly always something new to see and to photograph, either on the land or in the water. Special events for the public are held in the area, especially at Canada Place, such as a Canada Day Celebration on July 1st and a Christmas Market. It’s nice that the area can be appreciated by both business people and the general public.


1 thought on “Waterfront Attractions by and in the Vancouver Convention Centre

  1. Pingback: The Vancouver Christmas Market: Facts, Scenes, and Tradition | BC Write

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