The Hollow Tree, a locally-beloved 800-year-old Western Red Cedar stump in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, has gone through its fair share of tribulations. It has withstood a destructive windstorm, a mysterious fire, and a battle for its removal by citizens who considered it hazardous. Yet nostalgia-driven community initiatives like of the Hollow Tree Conservation Society successfully preserved the arboreal icon. Now, to commemorate the Hollow Tree’s hallowed history, a sculpture in its likeness has been created by none other than Vancouver’s Douglas Coupland.
Golden Tree was recently unveiled in the plaza of the new residential community MC2 at the corner of South West Marine Drive and Cambie Street. The 13-metre-tall metallic tree is only one component of the public artwork: mounted behind is a 7.6 by 12.2 metre photograph by Coupland of Stanley Park’s woodland scenery. Coupland notes that he used to find the South Vancouver location to be a “spooky” and “horrible” corner of the city, but its growth in vivacity has introduced business, shopping, and housing developments—evidence of Vancouver’s life force steady movement eastward. Juxtaposed against Golden Tree’s urban setting, the image of Stanley Park serves as both a reminder of and a connection to the Hollow Tree’s home.
Although an exact replica of the Hollow Tree in its scale and dimensions, the fibreglass, resin, and steel sculpture has two noticeable differences from its source of inspiration: the obvious titular gold finish (an induction of sorts into the 21st century), and, perhaps more curious, rather than being a straightforward duplicate of the Hollow Tree, the statue was constructed in its mirror image. “I’ve always thought that going through the mirror as a metaphor is a wonderful way of changing extremely rapidly and beautifully,” Coupland says. “Suddenly, your head’s really engaged with the issue… It makes you question, why is it a mirror image? It seems like the tree has gone through some sort of journey—and now it’s here on the other side.”
Placing the tree on this “other side”—of both Coupland’s metaphorical magic mirror and the city—pays homage to the original. Rather than attempting to replace, Golden Tree acts as a reflection that prompts Vancouverites to consider the relationship between the natural world and the developing metropolis. Stump-side selfies are encouraged. This is the future, after all.