A VanCity credit union bike proudly hangs out of reach at Vancouver House
As our readers know from these exciting past few weeks, we've devoted ourselves to the pursuit of promoting fun, low-cost activities here in Vancouver during the 2010 Games. From the one million page views we've had in the past week, we can tell that many are using this resource. It's been exciting for us to produce our pavilion profiles, and get beyond the boasts of cheap beer or plasma TVs at a venue, and understand why have a venue at all. In almost all cases presenters are very generous in trying to describe their pavilions, and all abide my spontaneous request to give me a short elevator pitch on camera. That is, until I arrived at Vancouver House. I'll now describe my somewhat surreal visit there.
My expectations for Vancouver House – the venue meant to represent my city to the tens of thousands visiting the city – were not very high. I knew a little bit about the troubled project beforehand. Vancouver's pavilion was originally intended to be situated in the more central location of Library Square on Robson. Today I walked by that location, with hundreds standing on the plaza, and thousands walking along the street, and wondered if moving Vancouver House to the back corner of LiveCity Yaletown was a mistake.
We've been told that Vancouver House was quickly revamped to accommodate a hastily prepared economic agenda, the so-called "Green Capital" brand. There was some controversy over this corporate identity, which reputedly cost $240,000 to produce a logo and the video you can see today at Vancouver's pavilion.
Those who have visited the site beforehand were not terribly generous – for example, local journalist Frances Bula recently posted this remark on her blog:
...can you tell me why anyone from the general public would want to visit a place that is essentially a very large business brochure explaining how great it would be to invest in this city?
Unswayed, I wanted to visit the place for myself. It was the last of a four venue afternoon for me, and it followed the inspiring West House pavilion, which I will be profiling shortly. Vancouver House greets you with a cleanly designed, in your face
Helvetica Gotham font business message. Green means many things, apparently, and it's also the colour of Vancouver's future.
Walls are adorned with buzz phrases like "entrepreneurially corporate" and stats, all in
Helvetica Gotham font hues of green, grey and blue. A few notable figures from the planning and sustainability movement are featured in video loops, including the city's former director of planning Larry Beasley. Which begs the obvious question: why feature the former director of planning? The green screen style of the videos is slick, but reminds me of bank commercials Saturday Night Live used to mock in the 90s.
As one walks through the rather stark presentation, you encounter a big wall with a tightly scripted and well-rehearsed Mayor Robertson, mouthing some of the same buzz phrases I describe. The impression it gives is decidedly 1984, with Big Brother reminding you that green is the new black.
For a place that is meant to represent my city in some way, it was surprisingly bereft of anything Vancouver at all. Where are the images of our neighbourhoods? Where are the scenes of Main Street, Chinatown, The Drive, South Hill or Marpole? Where's the message about the immense work done over a generation to make Vancouver one of the world's most livable and sustainable cities? Besides a smattering of Very Important Green People, where the heck are the faces of the city?
I didn't really want to watch the videos cutely labeled "AudaCity," "CapaCity," and "VeloCity" because, frankly, I felt that I was being spun, not informed. I was hoping for a little bling, maybe an interactive screen of some kind. So were these kids and others who saw the video table in the middle of the lounge and realized it wasn't interactive. The couches did serve a purpose, allowing really stoned kids waiting for the Deadmau5 concert a place to nap before the show.
I was there just under 15 minutes and began to head for the door. I didn't see any tours taking place, but since I was there I figured that I should at least get someone to give me the spiel so that I could share it with you. A volunteer host pointed me to someone who could be a spokesperson for the venue. I introduced myself and asked if he might give me the 90-second elevator pitch on Vancouver House so that I could share it with our readers. At that point things got strange.
First, I got the "and you are..?" David Spade treatment. No matter, I just said that we've produced a popular web resource sharing all the pavilions with thousands of readers. The fellow then tells me he better check with his boss in public relations, Carole Appleby. Carol works for Karyo-Edelman, the top PR firm hired to handle all the communications for the LiveCity venues.
Then spokesperson/host guy comes back with a "I'm not authorized to speak with you, can you come back another day?" response. So much for spontaneity, huh? Trust me, there's not enough at Vancouver House that would compel me to come back a second time. If the lack of any line-ups in this hidden corner of David Lam Park are any evidence, not many others are eager to get here. There was a huge queue to get in and look at Panasonic electronics, but no one interested in the Host City's venue.
When describing my experience to a friend this evening, she suggested that I get you, our readers, to give us the Vancouver House elevator pitch. If the City of Vancouver won't make someone available to describe their namesake venue, maybe one of you can do it for them.
Leave a comment below, or better yet, record your own video 60-second elevator pitch on Vancouver House and put the YouTube link in the comments below. I'm sure that our readers are a lot more creative – and spontaneous – than the folks down at LiveCity Yaletown.