Love Letters & Secret Gardens

The project features a mural of love notes from the community to the emergency and health care workers of the North Shore; these notes continue in what will be transformed into a greenway, perfect for a gentle stroll or peaceful lunch.

The City of North Vancouver and its stakeholders are in the midst of “developing a vision for an Economic Health Cluster that would support the activities and wellbeing of organizations, residents and visitors. The transformation of the retaining wall in front of the Lions Gate Hospital emergency entrance and the laneway off East 13th Street are vital elements of this vision for the economic health cluster.

Our project team worked alongside CityStudio North Vancouver to develop a recommended plan of action for placemaking to support the development of the economic health cluster.

The retaining wall outside of the Lions Gate Hospital Emergency entrance is highly visible and situated on a busy street with a high rate of foot traffic. Currently, the wall is a blank concrete slab and is visible to the apartments, offices, and sidewalk across the street.  Currently, cities around the world, North Vancouver included, are recognizing those in their cities that have put themselves in harm’s way by cheering from their windows at 7 pm each night.

The intention behind the design is to create a permanent space for the city to express their gratitude for the emergency services. The city will put a call out to residents to send in their brief “love letters” to the emergency services staff and the city itself. These notes will then be painted on to the retaining wall by a local artist. To also reflect the modernization of the hospital and their move to increased online service, there will be a touch screen embedded in the wall where people walking by can write notes in real-time. These messages will be sent to an administrator to be approved on a regular schedule throughout the week and the approved messages will then be displayed on a screen located in the hospital atrium. 

The laneway off of East 13th Street sees a lot of foot traffic in the area and is located within a brief walking distance of the police station, Lions Gate Hospital, and fire station. It is also en route to the newly opened Whole Foods, Nando’s, and Tacomio and as such is on many of the emergency services employees’ lunch routes. The laneway links to a small park located near the police station. Currently, this area is mostly overlooked other than its use as a canine rest-stop.

To make better use of the space, we propose to turn the laneway into a not-so-secret garden featuring an art installation of the love letters on the retaining wall inspired by the green laneways of Montreal and the “Hearts in the window” campaign happening during the COVID-19 pandemic (Weichel, 2020).

Located in the middle of the City of North Vancouver’s Green Necklace, the new greenway would feature grass on either side of a pavement path, higher trees and a living wall along the apartment building wall to the east and shorter shrubs along Nando’s to the west to not impede the visibility of the restaurant. These would be interspersed with flowers. The trees would serve as a means to dampen noise for the apartments above and provide shade in the summer. The abundance of vegetation will improve the air quality in the area and help combat the smell in the laneway from Nando’s. In addition, there would be several colourful seats and tables those wishing to enjoy their lunch break in the greenway. The centre path would remain a clear walkway to ensure accessibility to those with mobility challenges.

The entrance from 13th Street would feature an archway that is always open, inviting passersby to explore the previously ignored space. To continue the theme of the love letters from the hospital retaining wall, the art installation will include rotating hearts with love notes inscribed on either side.

The Team

Kirsten Marr, Angela Jiang and Michelle Zhen

AJ: Having the opportunity to deliver client-driven content and receive ongoing feedback about our project from the client made all the difference in this experience. Working with clients is better learnt doing rather than reading about in a textbook, and I’m very grateful to have had this opportunity to do so during my time at CapU.
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