Wayne Moriarty: Green pastures of convention centre roof leave me dreaming
Wayne Moriarty, The Province, Published April 25, 2017
I have two columns left in me. Today, I will solve a mystery. Friday, I will tell a story.
Until about eight years ago, the historic Marine Building on the corner of Burrard and Hastings streets, with its Art Deco nuts and bolts, was my favourite bit of architecture in this town.
I greatly delight in the gothic beauty of Vancouver City Hall, too.
But for the past number of years, my new favourite building has been the west wing of the Vancouver Convention Centre — notable for many reasons, none more so than the pasture on its roof.
In days past, I would sit at my desk in my office on the fifth floor of 200 Granville Street and gaze in reverie upon it. It would take me away, as I would consider its potential — a field for cows, or a golf hole, or a soccer match, or the finest off-leash dog park in the world …
I love that pasture.
That said, the west wing of the centre is so much more than just grass on a roof. I have been at the podium in the cavernous grand ballroom, where I stared across the ocean at the mountains as the words of an unrehearsed speech dribbled from my mouth. It’s a vista without parallel in this city — payday for every conventioneer who travels here in the hope of seeing something more glorious than he or she had ever seen before.
It stops my breath when I think about it.
But I digress. My intent here, in this penultimate column, isn’t to sing the praises of our glorious convention centre, but to solve a mystery. In the washrooms of this stunning building there are these signs over the men’s urinals that have perplexed me for years. The information in these signs is as follows:
“The Vancouver Convention Centre is committed to sustainability and uses recycled, non-potable water from its Water Treatment Facility to flush toilets and urinals.” Here is the kicker. “This water is not intended for consumption.”
My initial thought was that this is a convention centre and people are coming from all around the world and maybe, just maybe, there is a country out there whose citizens commonly drink urinal water. Then, of course, I realized that’s ridiculous.
I phoned Jinny Wu, communications manager for the VCC, to see if I could get an answer to this puzzler. Apparently, because the water that flows through the urinals and toilets of the convention centre is recycled and non-potable (like the sign says), management of the facility felt it prudent to not assume the obvious, to not assume 100 per cent of all people who use these urinals will not drink the water.
Jinny told me I wasn’t the first person to ask about these signs.
I then turned her attention to the pasture on the roof and asked if she’s had any kooky suggestions for its use over the years.
“Goats,” she said. “I had someone suggest goats once.”
We ended our conversation with her generous offer for a grand tour of the facility.
“I would love that,” I told her. “I’m free all next week. The week after that, too.”