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Friday, October 8, 2010

The completed Ottawa Chinatown Royal Arch

 October, 2010

double click on picture to enlarge

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Symbolism; learn more...

The centre blue panel on the Arch is Chinese characters saying "Ottawa Chinatown".

The Arch is rich in symbolism. For example, the tableau shown above is repeated on most of the nine roof corners. The dragon on the left represents the Emperor or government. The figure to the right is a civil servant or messenger riding a phoenix, sent out on state business. The three mythical monsters following him are to eat him up if he does not perform his duties to the highest standards.

The Chinatown business association has produced an informative booklet that explains some of the symbolism in the Gateway, allowing the viewer to "read" some of the stories on the Arch. It also explains some of the architectural features and traditions expressed in the gateway. The brochure will soon be available free at most merchants and restaurants in Chinatown.

Painting the Lion's Eyes

To cap off the unveiling ceremonies, Mayor O'Brien and Liang Wei painted the Lion's eyes with water, washing them, and symbolically awakening the Lions to do their duty guarding the new Ottawa Chinatown Gateway.

Unveiling the lions

At the base of the Arch there are two carved stone lions that guard the Gateway. Both were covered with red cloths, which were removed at the end of the ceremonies. Cloths were removed by representatives of the community:
Diane Holmes, Peter So, Larry Lee, Peter Yeung, Frank Ling, Bill Joe, Ron Tomlinson, and Marion Hum.

A traditional dragon dance followed the unveiling. There were two parent dragons and a baby dragon.

Some of the excitement and sounds of the opening ceremonies were captured in this CBC Morning show broadcast:

Happy faces at the grand opening

Assembled together for the opening ...

People gather for the opening celebration. There were "invited guests" and VIP's in the seating area and crowds of people standing around the perimeter.
Councilor Diane Holmes (in gold dragon cape) and Mayor Larry O'Brien in the background.

L to R: Grace Xuexin of the Chinatown BIA; to the right of the Mountie is Lan Lijun, Ambassador of the People's Republic of China; John Baird representing the Government of Canada; Yasir Naqvi representing the Government of Ontario; Larry O'Brien Mayor of Ottawa; and Liang Wei representing Beijing.

October 7th 2010 was the fortieth anniversary of formal diplomatic relations between the People's Republic of China and Canada.

Setting the stage, 2.30pm

October 7, 2010: 2.30pm...

The stage is set, the chairs are ready to be warmed, but there is nary a dignitary in sight. The lions on the right and left are covered in red cloth for the official unveiling today at 3.58pm.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Scaffolding taking down

On October 1st the contractors removed the scaffolding that has surrounded the Arch since construction started. For the first time, viewers could see the whole arch at once, and previously hidden elments such as the finial shown below.

The Mandarin language characters in the centre panel say Ottawa Chinatown. The removed scaffolding reveals the four mythical beasts -- two at the base of each column -- that guard the Arch. The beasts are a combination of lion and tiger and other ferocious animals. The two guardian lion sculptures have not yet been exposed, they are still covered with protective wood hoarding.

The electrical utility poles at the left are non-functional, ie they do not carry electricity. The electric service stops at the corner of Cambridge. These are left-over poles that haven't been removed because the city-owned utility wants too much money to remove them. Ottawa remains one of the more curious places in the world, in  that it finds overhead wiring inoffensive and indeed features it on otherwise totally rebuilt and landscaped streets.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Decorative painting closeups

There is a band of lacey filligree panels across the bottom of the arch spanning the street. In this picture the horizontal base is not yet painted, but if you see the Arch today, it being painted as beautifully as the other segments.

Phoenix, symbol of rebirth, fertility, the female.

The artisans painting the Arch must be finished by Friday, as they fly home to Beijing on Saturday. Next week, the last of the scaffolding will come down.

There is still a lot of prep work to do before the opening. There are the new-style Chinatown street lights, floodlights, uncrating the lions, etc.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lions fighting

detail of the panel with two lights fighting (or playing ...) over a golden ball. Double click to enlarge.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The roof, up close

The Ottawa Chinatown Royal Arch is a royal arch because it has nine roofs, symbolizing eternal life and eternal reign of the emperor. The roofs are made of glazed roof tiles, as are the many figurative elements. These will not be visible in any detail from the ground, except with a telephoto lens.

It is now one month to official unveiling of the Arch, the long building process is drawing towards its culmination.

dragon motifs along the roof peak

the detailed story lines are intriguing, complex like the medieval cathedral stuatuary in Europe

The tiles are cemented together with red mortar. Double click to enlarge any picture to see more detail.

With a human in the picture, the scale of the pieces becomes more apparent

End of a "wooden" beam is capped with a glazed figure

Silhouetted against the sky, figures journey forever

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gold confetti

As the gold foil is applied to the arch, the carrier strip of plain paper is discarded. The little strip of paper flutters away in the breeze.

Most of them flutter to land on the scaffolding underfoot. But a goodly number blow away in the breeze, leaving the downwind area lightly scattered with little strips of paper and tiny bits of gold leaf. Also shown on the scaffolding are pots of paint, solvents, tea infusions, cheesecloth, etc.

All the time I was on the Arch, one worker spent his time sweeping up the little pieces with a short broom. By time he was three quarters of his way along one side of the Arch, a fresh blizzard of paper bits was already descending onto the scaffolding behind him.

The workers draped large sheets of plastic over the area they were working in if they were on the up-wind side of the Arch, to prevent their gold foil from blowing away. Those on the down-wind side stuffed bits of cardboard in the nearby openings through the Arch to deflect the wind that funnelled through the gaps and blew away their bits of foil.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gold Leaf

Many of the elements of the Arch are decorated in real gold. The gold is applied in a foil format (not paint). The incredibly thin sheets of gold leaf come on carier sheets of heavier parchment. The artisan uses wooden tweezers to pick up 1" x 5" strips of gold. Each larger sheet is cut on site down to the smaller 1x5 size:

Artisan holds the sheet over the area to be foiled. He then rubs the backing to transfer the gold foil to the arch:

The carrier sheet flutters away in the breeze. Notice how the gold leaf covers too much area and is not yet the final shape:

Applying the gold foil to the scroll work on a piece of (concrete) bamboo:

After pressing the foil into place, the excess bits are wiped off with a piece of cheesecloth. I caught some of the bits waffing in the air, and ate them. Gold leaf (presumably in small quantities) is supposedly good for you, I learned that from a Vegas chef at a cooking lesson where we applied bits of gold leaf to our Japanese icecream deserts:

The finished scroll work. It should stay bright for about 100 years. Rain will wash over it and keep it clean:

Gold leaf sheets are available at craft and art supply stores for those who want to try this at home.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Close-up pictures, painting the Arch

August 24, 2010

Painting is still in progress, and will be finished by the end of September. Here are some pictures of the painted sections "in progress". Some sections are still getting their first coats of paint, others are multicoloured with gold leaf.

Double click on any photo to enlarge it on your monitor screen.

gold leaf applied to upper panels but not yet trimmed

supporting decorative "woodwork" with its first coats of paint but not yet gold leafed

upper part has gold leaf but not trimmed, lower section has leaf that has been trimmed and outlined in white.

more pictures tomorrow !

Monday, August 23, 2010

Royal Treasure wall art

Just a few blocks west of the Arch, this wall mural is in progress on the Royal Treasure wall at corner of LeBreton Street.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Some colour appears on the Arch

Artisans have been in Ottawa for weeks now, preparing the Arch for the final decorative finishes.

Some bits of finish are now apparent, like the red and gray near the topmost roof section:

If you peer through the green netting that wraps the site, a bright yellow panel is visible on the north side:

Some paint on the eaves of the roof section. Double click to enlarge to see details:

Monday, August 9, 2010

Other Arches - Yokohama, Japan

Shown above is the arch in Yokohama, Japan.

In Ottawa, the artisans who will paint the arch have arrived from Beijing and are applying the 13 undercoats of paint to make the cement structure smooth and ready for the four top coats of paint.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Other Arches - Philadelphia, USA

This picture of the arch in Philadelphia USA gives some idea as to what the painting will look like on the concrete arch in Ottawa.