Columns of white light have lined 10 blocks of Granville Street downtown since 2010, when Vancouver architects Bill Pechet and Stephanie Robb designed and mounted the light installation known as “The Great White Way.” The name comes from a popular moniker for Granville Street during the neon heyday of the 1940s and ‘50s.
The installation itself is not technically neon, but its design was inspired by efforts to complement existing and historical neon that defined Granville Street over the years. It’s also the most recent ambient light installation on the street.
The installation was part of 2009 municipal efforts to revive Granville Street, and was unveiled in time for the 2010 Olympics, when Granville was closed to cars and filled with people.
Pechet and Robb collaborated with PWL Landscape Architects and SDL in Montreal on the project.
“When you’re on Granville Street and you see the Orpheum sign reflected on the wet pavement, it doubles in its influence. And it brings a rainy night into a whole other kind of carnival-like experience.
I think it’s so critical. Human beings have these receptors, sensorial receptors. And things like neon signs feed directly into them.
We respond viscerally to the warmth and energy that the tubes of light produce. And I think that they’re very important elements in a city.
They speak of a kind of interest in the night, a revel in excess in a way that’s very beautiful.”
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— Bill Pechet, architect