Mountain View Cemetery: A view to the past, present, and future of Vancouver
I was sad to miss the launch of Spacing Vancouver, and thus missed our dear Erin’s presentation (outlined in the previous post) on her thoughts about Spacing’s Top Ten Public Spaces in Vancouver. Thinking of great places in the city, I’d like to put another one forward: Mountain View Cemetery.
I love walking through the cemetery. It is beautiful, vast – 106 acres! – manicured green space in the city that inspires reflection, thought, and solace. No, I wouldn’t feel comfortable rollerblading along its pathways like I might on the Seawall (though it’s a great place for tai chi!) or having a barbeque like I might at one of Vancouver’s great beaches, but engaging with public space isn’t just about having a party. It’s also about thinking about our place in the world, who we are as people and as a city, where we come from, and who we want to be.
There has been a lot of discussion on the internet lately (e.g. Georgia Straight, The Tyee, Megaphone Magazine) in the aftermath of Vancouver’s latest riots exploring these questions: How do recent events fit into the trajectory of our development as a city? Are we a young city going through growing pains? Are we progressing or regressing? How do these uncomfortable events contribute to our identity as a city?
I resisted writing about the riots because I am not currently in Vancouver (I’m actually in Sierra Leone, which is about as removed as one can be from the situation). I didn’t think my second-hand account would add much to the active and thoughtful discourse generated by great local thinkers with first-hand accounts of Vancouver at this point in its history.
All I will say is that Mountain View Cemetery is a great place to mull over these questions. There, you can immerse yourself in the (often uncomfortable) history of a place that people can shrug off as without history. It is also a great place to think about what is great and interesting about the city today: its Celebration Hall and Columbaria were featured in the same We: Vancouver exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery as the VPSN; its sustainable construction and innovative approach to the celebration of life exemplify some of the most beautiful aspects of Vancouver.
To celebrate its 125th birthday, Mountain View Cemetery is having an open house on July 9th. There will be walking tours led by local historians, as well as a bike tour! I encourage everyone in the city to go to this event or just visit the grounds on your own time. It’s a great place to reflect on the history, people, and events that make this city what it is today.