Scenes from TechDays Vancouver, Part 3: The Surroundings

Exterior of the Vancouver Convention Centre's West Building, as seen from halfway the East and West Buildings

For the past couple of years, we’ve held TechDays Vancouver at Vancouver Convention Centre’s East Building, but this year, we got to hold it at the brand new West Building. If you followed the Olympics, you might have caught a glimpse of it in the coverage; it served as the media centre during the event.

Entrance to the Vancouver Convention Centre's West Building

The place is huge, covering 111,000 square metres (about 1.2 million square feet). The building and surrounding walkways cover a total project area of 57,000 square metres (14 acres) over land and 32,000 square metres (8 acres) over water. The indoor carpeting is colour-coded brown in those parts that are over land and blue over those parts that are over water.

Sign: "Vancouver Convention Centre / West | Burrard Street Entrance"

The building is one of the greenest convention centres in the world. Among its certifications and designations are:

Burrard Street doors to Vancouver Convention Centre's West Building, with the giant globe hanging from the ceiling visible through the glass walls

The building is topped with a 24,000 square metre (6 acres) “green roof – the largest one in Canada and the largest non-industrial one in North America – housing 400,000 native plants and 60,000 bees. Irrigation for the roof is provided by treating the “blackwater” from the building.

Detail of a wall inside the Vancouver Convention Centre's West Building, made up of the ends of planks of wood

There’s a great “log cabin” smell to the place as soon as you walk in. It comes from the walls, which are made of wood from trees that have fallen on their own rather than ones that were felled. Photos don’t do it justice:

TechDays registration area -- the large hall on the west side of the building -- as seen from the staircase

The place is huge. There were city block-esque distances to cover between the farthest rooms. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – programming is a sedentary job, and a little moving around is probably just what the doctor ordered.

TechDays registration area, with the giant "eggs" made of hockey-stick-length pieces of wood hanging from the ceiling

Being by the water, there are some great views that most cities’ convention centres simply can’t offer:

A silhouetted TechDays attendee takes a phone call against the north windows of the Vancouver Convention Centre's West Building, with the oceans and mountains in the background

And hey, mountains and ocean make a great backdrop against which to play Kinect games on the Xbox 360!

A group of TechDays attendees playing Kinect games on the Xbox 360

While we nerds are famous for enjoying the great indoors, it would be a waste not to enjoy the promenades surrounding the centre, with their views of the scenery and a piece of outdoor art named Digital Orca, the pixelated killer whale statue just outside the Centre:

Promenade of the west side of the Vancouver Convention Centre's West Building, with "Digital Orca" in the foreground

Believe it or not, you might be familiar with some of the other work done by the artist behind Digital Orca – it’s Douglas Coupland, who in addition to doing industrial design, fashion design and sculpting, is also a writer. You might have heard or even read his stuff: Generation X, Microserfs, JPod, and many other books.

People posing by "Digital Orca", a pixelated killer whale statue

Looking past Digital Orca to the northwest, you get this view:

View of a promenade facing the water and mountains

And looking south towards the city, you see this:

Downtown Vancouver buildings, with Digital Orca in the foreground

Here’s a view from the second floor windows facing north – a lovely thing to see during a between-session break:

View of the ocean and mountains

Turn your gaze slightly to the left and you’ll see this:

View of the ocean and mountains, with an island with a large sign on the left

Take a closer look at that island on the left: it’s a Chevron station. I was half-tempted to swim up to it and ask to use their bathroom:

A floating chevron gas station, with a couple of boats moored to it

The sessions were programmers were in rooms on the second floor, opposite windows that faced east and provided a view of the Vancouver Convention Centre’s East Building. It’s where the Pan Pacific Hotel is and where the cruise ships are moored. On Day 1, we were treated to a view of a Princess Cruises ship – yes, that’s “Princess” as in Love Boat:

Princess Cruises liner, moored to Vancouver Convention Centre's East Building

On Day 2, we saw a Holland America ship set sail:

Holland America liner, moored to Vancouver Convention Centre's East Building

Holland America liner, setting out for sea

All in all, I enjoyed working in and looking out of our first TechDays venue of the year.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.