Robson Square’s Secret Garden
Over the past few years, Robson Square has experienced a rebirth. Ever since it was renovated after the 2010 Winter Olympics, the area below and in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery on Robson Street - considered Vancouver’s only central public square - has become home to outdoor skating and hockey, food trucks and creative public seating during the summer.
These spaces are great for people watching and socializing with friends, but where do you go when you want to get away from the bustle of downtown?
I was looking for a quiet place to sit at lunchtime in the sunshine yesterday and realized that I have not ventured up the stairs to the Robson Square gardens in years. When I lived in the suburbs as a teen, my parents used to take us downtown at Christmas time and we would walk around the gardens and look at all the lights. Even though I work a block away from Robson Square, I hadn’t been up there since.
Most people forget the gardens are even there and if you aren’t from here, you would never know they exist. Arthur Erickson’s modernist design of Robson Square as a series of steps - some going down to a skating rink and some going up to the gardens which connect to the city’s law courts - has been criticized for going against common public space theory. That is, if you want people to get together in a public space, keep it at ground level (Rockefeller Centre in New York City is the only successful exception).
As a result, this beautiful space is rarely visited by anyone except lawyers (since the law courts connect to it). But, it is worth the visit any day, especially since there are so few places to find a quiet oasis downtown. There is even a patch of grass where you can sun yourself on one of those rare Vancouver days. Take advantage.
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