For too long, it’s been a traffic jam through a construction site. But the bottom of The Cut is taking on a whole new look.
Artist Rebecca Bayer is putting the final touches on Merge, a 366-metre-long shock of colour stretching along Highway 1 between Mountain Highway and Fern Street.
It is one of the final pieces of the $200-million Lower Lynn Improvement Project, intended to shield the Inter River neighbourhood from highway noise. But it’s also now likely the largest single piece of public art on the North Shore.
“An acoustic barrier wall could be very mundane and boring, but my hope with the bright colours is that it is more interesting and vibrant from both sides. It can be experienced at a slow pace, but also a fairly quick pace if you're driving along the highway, and it sort of blurs together as you drive by,” she said. “I get pretty excited by public art that really blends with the infrastructure or architecture, and it just becomes part of something that was already going to be there anyway.”
Bayer chose the 20 different colours specifically because they are found in the flora, fauna and landmarks from the Lynn Valley area. Bayer consulted with the Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre to match colours with individual species like the red-backed salamander, Pacific chorus frog and licorice fern. She then tried out different permutations to come up with the pattern that exists there today.
“There is quite an amazing pocket of nature right there,” she said. “It made sense to try to work with the natural palette in some way.”
On the Inter River side, the names of the species appear on some panels, which Bayer said she hopes will enable Merge to educate as well as beautify.
Lori Phillips, the District of North Vancouver’s public art officer who helped in the selection process of Bayer for the project, said it does both.
“Merge is a perfect example of the magic that can happen when artists are added to infrastructure projects. Suddenly a rather understated sound wall is transformed into a dynamic public artwork that is free and accessible for everyone to enjoy,” she said. “The District of North Vancouver’s public art program, was thrilled to partner with the [Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure] on this project and we know that the residents of Lynnmour, along with the thousands of daily commuters and travellers on Highway 1 will enjoy its masterful merge of colour and story, for years to come.”
Even as sound barriers/art canvasses go, the panels are a “world-class sound attenuation product” designed to neutralize sound, not just bounce it away from residences, said Mark Hersey, managing partner of Solid Rock Fencing, the company contracted to install the 623 panels.
Today, there are just a few gaps in the wall, which will be filled when the final panels arrive from Europe, Hersey said.
The final components of the Lower Lynn Improvement Project, including combining the Main Street and Dollarton Highway on-ramps into one with signalized traffic control, are expected to come online later this fall.