by REMY SCALZA
Are you ready to “swim” your way through Vancouver’s Robson Street?
The 800-block of Robson will be closed to traffic and transformed into an “urban reef” this summer. Designed to encourage people to stop, meet and mingle, the unique installation consists of a series of flowing benches crafted to look much like a landlocked coral reef.
The design beat out 78 other entries from all over the world as part of the Robson Redux contest. Entrants were tasked with transforming the busy section of Robson Street, situated directly behind the Vancouver Art Gallery, into a pedestrian-friendly space for people to sit and relax during the summer months.
The winning design came, appropriately enough, from a group of Vancouver architects and carpenters. They’ll be given $40,000 by the city to cover materials and other costs for the project. The reef is set to be up and running by Canada Day (July 1) and will remain in operation through Labour Day (Sept. 1).
The installation’s three curving reefs are meant to be used as comfy benches or lounge chairs (in fact, ledges have been strategically positioned to catch the sun). High-top tables offer a spot to eat lunch from food trucks parked nearby. The reefs also provide seating for outdoor performances, from shows by local buskers to bigger events.
The coolest part: At night, LED bulbs inside the reef will be lit, making the sculpture glow from within.
This is the fourth year that this section of Robson Street has been closed to traffic and made into a gathering space. Past installations have included a collection of giant beanbags for lounging in the sun and, more practically, a cluster of cedar benches and patio umbrellas. Popular among pedestrians, the yearly closures are met with a mixed reaction by drivers and bus passengers, who are forced to find alternate routes around the busy block.