Arching over the entrance to Vancouver’s harbour is a beautiful web of intricately suspended steel. It is at once a gateway, landmark, symbol and emblem of a Western city, poised at the edge of a continent gazing westward over the wide Pacific Ocean, to the East. Day and night, its taut steel strings sing the original hymn to progress, hope and riches first composed in the hearts and minds of its builders. Celebrated in Douglas Coupland’s paean as a “bridge to heaven,” the Lions Gate Bridge has become an icon of the city, not only to heritage conservationists, but to citizens of and visitors to Vancouver from around the globe. After decades of debate over a suitable replacement for this “outdated” structure, the bridge itself has triumphed—on the occasion of its 60th anniversary, the government of British Columbia committed itself to renewing this grand and daring gesture in steel, rather than replacing it. Like all great historic landmarks, the Lions Gate Bridge remains a source of powerful, sometimes illuminating, sometimes mysterious stories of the people and times which gave birth to them.
In addition to celebrating this bridge and its grand design, Lions Gate sets out to reveal these stories for the first time: the colonial ambitions of the British Empire stretched to its westernmost margin; the unresolved violation of nationhood the building of the bridge on native land entailed; the backroom political power the railroad barons continued to hold in the Canadian government long after their railroad was completed; the origins of the newly private, global empire building of the ‘new’ British peerage; and the strange phenomenon and circumstance of such a huge commercial enterprise being mounted in the midst of the “dirty thirties.” Most mysterious of all is the figure of the man who both conceived and built this grand design. AJT Taylor is a character straight out of Ayn Rand: ambitious, shrewd, visionary, fearless, competitive, a man given to great economic and political risk, he appears to triumph in the embrace of the British nobility, high society, and financiers he has courted, and who appear to make the completion of his project both physically and politically possible. Yet at the opening ceremonies, he is not represented among the dignitaries, but watches from the sidelines with the ordinary citizens, having earlier surreptitiously sealed his story in one of Charles Marega’s lions who guard the south approach to this bridge of mystery.
An exquisite cloth-bound book, rich in design, text and pictures, Lions Gate is a celebration not to be missed by Vancouverites and visitors alike.