Street Signs in Lotusland

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I’ve always had a thing for Vancouver’s street signs. They seem somehow deviant and subtly stylish. The stark black background is unusual enough, but I especially love the white border, which angles in at the sign’s edges; it’s reminiscent of the mid-century modern verve that lurks behind the wholesome attitude that present-day Vancouver has tried so hard to affect.

There are some interesting variations on this black sign. In Chinatown, it takes on a bulkier appearance, a fat rectangle whose corners have been chomped off. Elegantly-scripted Chinese transliterations of street names are inscribed above the official English name. (Keefer Street becomes Kay fah gai, Pender Street East Peen dah dong gai.) In the Punjabi Market, an Indian neighbourhood in South Vancouver, Punjabi transliterations are squeezed onto the narrow standard signs; a bilingual yellow-and-blue disc bearing the neighbourhood’s name is affixed.

Beyond these black signs, Vancouver has one very interesting, but increasingly rare, variation: cylindrical street signs that are illuminated from within. I’ve only seen these on downtown streets such as Granville or Robson and, if the fate of Toronto’s similar late-sixties street signs is any indication, they will eventually disappear. That would be a terrible shame.

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Of course, there are still more signs in Vancouver. While the black signs are found at almost every street corner, they are accompanied at major intersections by large, bland green signs intended to be visible to motorists. They are determinedly generic; there’s nothing particularly distinct about them.

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Finally, it would appear that some Vancouver neighbourhoods have recently earned their own unique street signs. The signs recently installed in South Granville, a chichi neighbourhood just across the Granville Street Bridge from downtown, are white with dark blue text and a blue border. South Granville, they read, est. 1907. They do a remarkably good job of evoking the neighbourhood’s somewhat vacuous character.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Friday June 29 2007at 11:06 am , filed under Canada, Heritage and Preservation and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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