George Norris (1928-2013) was a Vancouver artist whose sculptures adorn many city spaces. Doubtless the best known is his award-winning Crab at the entry to the Museum of Vancouver. Another one is Mother and Child at UBC near the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre.
But there is a small subset of Norris’ public art works which have been removed.¹ One of these works is the liquid-filled glass prism which formerly was on the NE corner of Georgia and Beatty Street – at the western end of the current Georgia Viaduct (1972-present). The sculpture and the park in which it would sit were designed to be memorials to the former Georgia Viaduct (1915-72) which for clarity I’ll refer to by its original name, the McHarg Viaduct.
Given that the current Georgia/Dunsmuir viaducts are today marked for demolition, it is interesting to think about why the park was created and the Norris sculpture was commissioned. My suspicion is that this may have been a sop from Mayor Tom “Terrific” Campbell and the Council that was dominated by his fellow-Non-Partisan Association partisans. This may have been intended to mute the outcry of so-called ‘anti-development’ forces who had raised such a stink over the
replacement of the McHarg Viaduct with the Georgia/Dunsmuir viaducts at the expense of Hogan’s Alley and a number of homes and businesses in the Main Street and Prior Street area. Council spent $13,000 on Norris’ work.
According to an earlier version of an online article written about Norris and his work, the sculpture was removed in 1987. (This date seems too early. I moved to Vancouver in 1991, and I recall seeing the prism at its location in the park after I arrived; the current version of the article has crossed out that year as well as its original assertion that the prism was in storage at the Surrey Works Yard – I have no current information on where the Norris prism is). Note: See comment below from JMV of Illustrated Vancouver for more on the date the sculpture is thought to have been removed.
The reason the Norris sculpture and the park were removed seems to have been pretty straightforward and predictable: the City wanted to develop the land on which they sat.
¹There has been at least one other Norris sculpture which has been removed from its original site: his pinwheel at Pacific Centre (located between the entry to what then was Eaton’s and the Toronto Dominion building, at Georgia and Granville). It was installed in 1974 and removed in 1988. “In 1996 a section of the steel design was famously mistaken for scrap metal and destroyed; the artist was understandably upset with this revelation (not to mention the work had been worth $50,000).” Source: Scout Magazine profile of Norris.