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Architecture in Vancouver

The Vancouver Art Gallery is housed downtown in the neoclassical former courthouse built in 1906. The courthouse building was designed by Francis Rattenbury, who also designed the British Columbia Parliament Buildings and the Empress Hotel in Victoria, and the lavishly decorated second Hotel Vancouver. The 556-room Hotel Vancouver, opened in 1939 and the third by that name, is across the street with its copper roof. The Gothic-style Christ Church Cathedral, across from the hotel, opened in 1894 and was declared a heritage building in 1976.

There are several modern buildings in the downtown area, including the Harbour Centre, the Vancouver Law Courts and surrounding plaza known as Robson Square (designed by Arthur Erickson) and the Vancouver Library Square (designed by Moshe Safdie), reminiscent of the Colosseum in Rome, and the recently completed Woodward’s building Redevelopment (designed by Gregory Henriquez). The original BC Hydro headquarters building (designed by Ron Thom and Ned Pratt) at Nelson and Burrard Streets is a modernist high-rise, now converted into the Electra condominiums. Also notable is the “concrete waffle” of the MacMillan Bloedelbuilding on the north-east corner of the Georgia and Thurlow intersection.

A prominent addition to the city’s landscape is the giant tent-frame Canada Place, the former Canada Pavilion from the 1986 World Exposition, which includes part of the Convention Centre, the Pan-Pacific Hotel, and a cruise ship terminal. Two modern buildings that define the southern skyline away from the downtown area areCity Hall and the Centennial Pavilion of Vancouver General Hospital, both designed by Townley and Matheson in 1936 and 1958 respectively.

A collection of Edwardian buildings in the city’s old downtown core were, in their day, the tallest commercial buildings in the British Empire. These were, in succession, the Carter-Cotton Building (former home of The Vancouver Province newspaper), the Dominion Building (1907) and the Sun Tower (1911), the former two at Cambie and Hastings Streets and the latter at Beatty and Pender Streets. The Sun Tower’s cupola was finally exceeded as the Empire’s tallest commercial building by the elaborate Art Deco Marine Building in the 1920s. The Marine Building is known for its elaborate ceramic tile facings and brass-gilt doors and elevators, which make it a favourite location for movie shoots. Topping the list of tallest buildings in Vancouver is Living Shangri-La at 201 metres (659 feet) and 62 storeys. The second-tallest building in Vancouver is the Private Residences at Hotel Georgia, at 156 metres (512 feet). Third is One Wall Centre at 150 metres (490 feet) and 48 storeys, followed closely by the Shaw Tower at 149 metres (489 feet).

TOP TEN BUILDINGS

As you wander the city, look out for these iconic Vancouver buildings:

  • Vancouver Public Library
  • BC Place Stadium
  • Canada Place
  • Vancouver Convention Centre West Building
  • UBC Museum of Anthropology
  • Marine Building
  • Dominion Building
  • Vancouver Law Courts
  • Science World
  • Bloedel Floral Conservatory

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