10 Architectural Finds in Vancouver
After a few years of architecture school and creative practice on the other side of the country, Vancouver feels like a whole new city to me, despite having grown up here. Whenever there is time to spare, there are new buildings to visit and old favorites to explore further. I’ve even started spending time sleuthing around the edges of construction sites, always curious to see what is being built and how. In the spirit of the warmer weather we are finally experiencing, I suggest getting outside and better acquainting yourself with some of the fantastic architecture we have in the city. Below are some of my favorite projects in the Vancouver region, some old, some new but all worth a visit.
1. Crown Life Building
1500 West Georgia Street
By Rhone and Iredale (Peter Cardew)
The Crown Life building is a 20-story glass office tower that still looks as clean and contemporary now as it did when it was built back in the 70s. Its wedge-shaped floor plates and tall slender columns make it a graceful character on the Georgia stretch. The annex retail space across the reflecting pool from the tower was originally intended to act as the base of a pedestrian bridge that would stretch across Georgia Street – unfortunately, that feature of the building never made it to construction. The sloping brick bank along the street side water feature has become an unexpected landmark for skateboard films in the city.
2. Evergreen Building
1285 West Pender Street
By Arthur Erickson
Sitting amongst the blue glass towers of Coal Harbour is Arthur Erikson’s Evergreen building. From its most photogenic angle, it is a pyramid of overflowing concrete gardens, the windows of offices just barely peaking through the greenery. The terraced face of the building is cut on a diagonal across the site, ensuring a choice view for tenants towards Stanley Park and the North Shore Mountains. Thanks to its fans, the project has managed to resist pressures to convert or demolish the structure to make way for condominiums.
3. Marine Building
355 Burrard Street
By McCarter Nairne and Partners
You may recognize the Marine Building as the Daily Planet Headquarters from the popular TV show, Smallville, or you may just know it as that big old Art Deco building on West Hastings. Back when this tower was built, it enjoyed almost a decade of being the tallest building in the British Empire. It may no longer be the tallest but it is definitely the most impressive example of Art Deco architecture in the city and maybe even the country. From the interior fixtures to the carved stone, all of the buildings details showcase marine symbols. I strongly recommend lingering in front of the impressive brass doors of the main entry and admiring the illustrative carvings in the surrounding stonework.
4. Vancouver Convention Centre West
1055 Canada Place
By LMN Architects (Lead Design Architects) MCM Architects and DA Architects + Planners (Local Architects)
I can’t help but mention the Vancouver Convention Centre’s West Building, when talking about architectural landmarks in the city. The extensive project has been one of the largest projects to take place in the city in the last decade and the city has gained some valuable public space in the process. The green roof unfolds and climbs upwards from Coal Harbour towards Canada Place, peeling back in places to allow for an outdoor program and views towards the North Shore. The sloping glass façade is definitely an impressive addition to Vancouver’s waterfront, especially when experienced from The Seawall along the building’s lower level. I can easily spend a whole afternoon exploring the different kinds of public space created by the Vancouver Convention Centre. Not all of these spaces are necessarily successful but the project is an ambitious one and an important cultural landmark in the city.
5. Jameson House
838 West Hastings Street
By Foster + Partners
Vancouver really wouldn’t be the same without Coal Harbour. The glass towers here have become a symbol of our local urban vernacular. It is the kind of place in Vancouver that you would only expect to find a tower designed by the renowned UK firm, Foster + Partners. The Jameson House, with its flamboyant curved glass façade and condominium units worthy of a James Bond scene, is the epitome of high-end living.
6. Odlum Drive Live/Work Studio
1332 & 1334 Odlum Drive
By Peter Cardew
As lots are subdivided in lower density neighborhoods of the city, a narrow and streamlined residential building type is gaining popularity. The most notable examples of this typology are Peter Cardew’s live/work units on East Vancouver’s Odlum drive. Four live/work dwellings – two facing Odlum drive and two facing an interior courtyard – sit shoulder-to-shoulder on a small lot. The project is characterized by vertical concrete block walls and robust seismic bracing on the front face. It is a real gem on a street of old houses and run down industrial buildings. If you are on Commercial Drive, I strongly encourage walking a few blocks west to check this project out.
7. Waterfall Building
1540 West 2nd Avenue
By Arthur Erickson with Nick Milkovich Architects
A later and lesser-known Erickson project, the Waterfall Building near Granville Island is a beautiful mixed-use residential project. The building consists of concrete and glass live/work units arranged around a bright courtyard and sky-lit gallery. An opening along West 2nd street provides views of the gallery behind a veil of water and invites those wondering by to enter the central courtyard.
8. 2386 Cornwall Avenue
By Battersby Howat (Designer), Hancock Brückner Eng & Wright Architects (Architect)
Another beautiful residential project I always enjoy passing by is the Battersby + Howat designed four-storey apartment at 2268 Cornwall Ave. Much like Cardew’s Odlum Drive Live/Work Units, this four-unit building maximizes space on a narrow lot with its simple block typology. It’s a refreshingly minimal project with beautiful concrete work wrapping the sides of the building leaving the front and back face fully glazed.
Making your way out of the downtown core to the University of British Columbia is a bit of a trek, especially if you are already familiar with some of the campus’s landmark buildings like Erickson’s Museum of Anthropolgy or Cardew designed Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. However, if you haven’t been on campus in the last 4 years, I strongly recommend you head out there to check out these projects:
9. Beaty Biodiversity Centre
2212 Main Mall, University of British Columbia
By Patkau Architects
The Beaty Biodiversity Centre shows a great deal of restraint while still keeping consistent with the Patkau’s famous attention to detail and design rigor. The museum component of the building proudly displays its enormous Blue Whale Skeleton from behind fully glazed walls while the buildings behind host laboratory and research program behind screened facades. Over the years since its completion, the naturalistic landscape has grown in, providing a fantastic contrast to the rawness of the building.
10. Pharmaceutical Sciences Building
2405 Wesbrook Mall
By Saucier + Perrotte Architectes and Hughes Condon Marler Architects
This building is unlike anything Vancouver has seen before. Dark, reflective glass and a staggered block façade give this building its high impact aesthetic while still keeping a clean and restrained form. At the base of the building, stunning board formed concrete folds into the building, giving way to an impressive wood-clad lobby.
Jessie Croll is an architecture student, currently interning at a creative practice in Vancouver. Collaborating, building things and drinking coffee are among her favorite activities.