Photo Essay: Vancouver Architecture

The following photo essay was contributed by local Vancouver photographer Clayton Perry, exclusively for Inside Vancouver. In this photo essay Clayton takes a look at Vancouver architecture.

The Birks Building – 698 West Hastings Street

Built in 1906-1908 originally as the The Bank of Commerce, this Neo-Classic building was restored and taken over by Birks Jewelers as their flagship store in 2007.

The Burrard Street Bridge

The Burrard Street Bridge is a five-lane, Art Deco style, steel truss bridge constructed in 1930-1932. Unifying the long approaches and the distinctive central span are heavy concrete railings, originally topped with decorative street lamps. These pierced handrails were designed as a kind of visual shutter or movie strip so that at a speed of 50 km/h motorists would see through them with an uninterrupted view of the harbour. The effect works at speeds from about 40 to 64 km/h.

Source: Wikipedia

Canada Place – 999 Canada Place St

Canada Place is a building situated on the Burrard Inlet waterfront. It is the home of the Vancouver Convention Centre, the Pan Pacific Hotel, and Vancouver’s World Trade Centre. It is also the main cruise ship terminal for the region, where most of Vancouver’s famous cruises to Alaska originate. Construction on it began in 1983, finished in late 1985, and was open for Expo 86 as the pavilion for Canada and was the only venue for the fair that was not at the main site on the north shore of False Creek.

Edgewater Casino – 750 Pacific Boulevard

Plaza of Nations and the Edgewater Casino; located on the north shore of False Creek in downtown Vancouver, next to BC Place & GM Place. Originally built in 1985 as part of Expo 86 and was used as the British Columbia Pavilion during the expo.

Hotel Europe – 43 Powell Street

Hotel Europe is a six-story heritage building located at 43 Powell Street (at Alexander) in the Gastown area. The building was commissioned by hotelier Angelo Calori and built in 1908 – 1909 by Parr and Fee Architects. Situated on a triangular lot, the building is designed in the flatiron style. It was the first reinforced concrete structure to be built in Canada and the earliest fireproof hotel in Western Canada. The Hotel Europe was one of the filming locations for the suspense movie The Changeling. Some scenes are set on its spectacular roof terrace.

Source: Wikipedia

Granville Street

Granville Street has been going through a rejuvenation project over the last couple of years, bringing it back to it’s glory days of the 50’s when sometime Vancouver was referred to as Las Vegas North.

Holy Rosary Cathedral – 646 Richards Street

Holy Rosary Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral operated by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver. It was built between 1899-1900 on the corner of Richards and Dunsmuir Streets and was designed in a French Gothic style by T.E. Among other notable events, it was the setting for the civic funeral of Joe Fortes, beloved local lifeguard and swim instructor.

The Hotel Vancouver – 900 West Georgia Street

The Hotel Vancouver (branded currently as the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver) is a hotel located on West Georgia Street and Burrard Street, in the heart of the Downtown core. Constructed at 111 metres (17 stories) high, its architects were John S. Archibald and John Schofield. It became part of the Canadian Pacific Hotels chain after that company purchased CN Hotels in 1988. The hotel was later renamed to Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. This is actually the third “Hotel Vancouver” we have had here. The first two Hotel Vancouver’s were between Howe and Granville Streets on the south side of West Georgia Street. The current building, a block away across the fountain plaza of the then-provincial courthouse and on the same side of Georgia, opened in May 1939. It was here, in the Panorama Roof Ballroom, that Dal Richards, the legendary Canadian big band leader, known as the King of Swing, began his career that spans decades.

Lions Gate Bridge

The Lions Gate Bridge, officially known as the First Narrows Bridge, is a suspension bridge that crosses the first narrows of Burrard Inlet and connects the City of Vancouver to North Vancouver. The term “Lions Gate” reflects The Lions, a pair of mountain peaks north of Vancouver and on March 24th, 2005, the Lions Gate Bridge was designated a National Historic Site of Canada. Built between March 1937 and May 1937 at a cost of $5.8 million by the Guinness Family as a way to get to their property that they owned in the British Properties in North Vancouver, it was sold to the province of British Columbia in 1955 for $5.9 million.

Source: Wikipedia

The Marine Building – 355 Burrard Street

The Marine Building is located at 355 Burrard Street, designed by McCarter Nairne and Partners. It is renowned for its Art Deco details.

The brainchild of Lt. Commander J.W. Hobbs of Toronto, it was opened on 7 October 1930, and at 97.8m (22 floors) it was the tallest skyscraper in the city until 1939. According to the architects, McCarter & Nairne, the building was intended to evoke “some great crag rising from the sea, clinging with sea flora and fauna, tinted in sea-green, touched with gold.” The building cost $2.3 million to build — $1.1 million over budget—but due to the Great Depression it was sold to the Guinness family of Ireland for only $900,000. The 2004 property assessment is $22 million.

Inside the massive brass-doored elevators the walls are inlaid with 12 varieties of local hardwoods. All over the walls and polished brass doors are depictions of sea snails, skate, crabs, turtles, carp, scallops, seaweed and sea horses, as well as the transportation means of the era. The floor presents the zodiac signs. The exterior is studded with flora and fauna, tinted in seagreen and touched with gold.

The building has often been used in film and television. It was the setting for the final scene in the movie, Timecop. Recently, the building has gained notice as the Daily Planet  headquarters in the popular television show Smallville. The building was used in the movie Blade: Trinity. It stood in for the Baxter Building in New York City in 2005’s Fantastic Four and its sequel, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

Source: Wikipedia

Nat Bailey Stadium – 4601 Ontario Street

Originally built in 1951 as Capilano Stadium, it was renamed Nat Bailey Stadium in 1978 to honour the work of Vancouver restaurateur Nat Bailey and his tireless effort to promote baseball in Vancouver.

Nat Bailey Stadium is located on the eastern side of scenic Queen Elizabeth Park in the Riley Park-Little Mountain neighbourhood of Vancouver. The stadium was home to the Vancouver Capilanos and later attracted the Oakland Oaks who played as the Vancouver Mounties of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League from 1956 until 1969. The PCL returned to Vancouver in 1978 with the Vancouver Canadians, who competed in the league until 2000 season, after which the team relocated to Sacramento, California. The following season, a second incarnation of the Canadians began playing in the short-season Class A Northwest League.

It is now known as Scotiabank Field at Bailey Stadium or affectionately as “The Nat”

Source: Wikipedia

The Pacific Central Station – 1150 Station St.

One of three train stations in Vancouver at the time it was built in 1919 (along with Waterfront Station and the now-demolished Union Station), Pacific Central served as the western terminus of the Canadian Northern Railway, and later the Canadian National Railway it now acts as the western terminus of Via Rail’s cross-country The Canadian to Toronto and the northern terminus of Amtrak’s Cascades to Seattle, Portland, Oregon, and Eugene, Oregon. Until Via Rail took over operations around 1979, Canadian Pacific Railway’s passenger trains went further west to Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver, now used by the SkyTrain and the West Coast Express commuter railway. The station also provides intercity coach service, being the head office and bus depot of Pacific Coach Lines and the main Vancouver terminal for Greyhound Canada. The building was designated a heritage railway station in 1991.

Richmond Olympic Oval – 6111 River Road, Richmond

The Richmond Olympic Oval was built on a site beside the Fraser River in Richmond BC, a short drive from downtown Vancouver and a few blocks away from Lansdowne Station on the Canada Line. From the air, it is the first Olympic venue many visitors will see flying into the Vancouver, and the roof takes the stylized native shape of a heron’s wing, the large wading bird that cohabit the riverbank. The building can accommodate 8,000 spectators. A distinctive feature of the Richmond Oval is its unique “wood wave” roof. This roof, which is one of the longest clear spans in North America, includes one million board feet of B.C. pinebeetle kill wood linked together in undulating sections to create a rippled effect. The Oval was given an award of excellence in architectural innovation by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada specifically for the innovative use of pine beetle-killed wood in its ceiling.

Outside, there is a sculptural environment designed by artist Janet Echelman with a pond filled with water that is collected from rain water falling on the roof that will serve as a gathering space and water supply for irrigating surrounding landscapes, and for flushing toilets. Above the pond hangs the artist’s “sky lantern” sculpture, Water Sky Garden. The sculpture is made of Tenara architectural fibre, supported by painted galvanized steel rings. The remainder of the building structure was designed by
structural engineers Glotman.Simpson Consulting Engineers.

Some items of interest included the design for a flat ice surface and the architectural piers used to support the roof structure. The principal and lead project architect was Bob Johnston of Cannon Design, who was involved in the design of both the Calgary and Salt Lake City tracks. After site preparation on November 17, 2006, the construction of the oval began.

The Richmond Oval officially opened on December 12, 2008, with Pre-games events at the Oval being the 2008 and 2009 Canadian Single Distance Championships, the 2009 ISU World Single Distance Championships, and the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships.

Source: Wikipedia

Science World – 1455 Quebec Street

Science World at Telus World of Science is a science centre run by a not-for-profit organization. It is located at the end of False Creek, and features many permanent interactive exhibits and displays, as well as areas with varying topics throughout the years. The building’s former name was Science World, still the name of the organization. The building’s name changed to the Telus World of Science became official on July 20, 2005 following a $9-million donation to the museum from Telus, it was the as Expo
Centre during Expo 86.

When Vancouver was awarded to host the transportation-themed 1986 World’s Fair (Expo 86), a Buckminster Fuller inspired geodesic dome was designed to serve as the fair’s Expo Centre with construction beginning in 1984 and being completed by early 1985. After Expo closed its gates in October of that year, an intensive lobbying campaign was launched to secure the landmark building, relocate the “Arts, Sciences and Technology Centre” into the post-expo dome, and convert the Expo Centre into Science World. With much government backing, the dome was obtained from the province and a massive fund-raising campaign ensued. Donations from the federal, provincial and municipal governments, the GVRD, the private sector, foundations, and individuals contributed $19.1 million to build an addition to the Expo Centre, redesign the interior and fabricate exhibits. In 1988, in a four month preview, over 310,000 visitors came to see the new building.

A year later, The 400 seat OMNIMAX theatre in the upper section of the dome was opened, extending upon the 3D IMAX theatre which was built in 1986 for the Expo “Transitions” film series.

During the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Science World was transformed into the Russky Dom (also known as World), which profiled plans for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. From February 12 to 28, 2010, the general public was allowed into the Russky Dom from noon until 5 p.m. In the evenings, parties were held in the Russky Dom for accredited guests.

Source: Wikipedia

Shangri-La – 1128 West Georgia Street

Living Shangri-la is a mixed-use skyscraper in downtown Vancouver and is the tallest building in both Metro Vancouver and British Columbia. The 62-storey Shangri-La tower contains a 5-star hotel and its offices on the first 15-floors, with condominium apartment units occupying the rest of the tower. The building’s podium complex also includes a spa, Urban Fare specialty grocery store, a Vancouver Art Gallery public display, and a curated public sculpture garden and is the 15th tallest building in Canada. The building was featured in the 2010 film Tron: Legacy in which the headquarters of the fictional
company ENCOM International is located.

Source: Wikipedia

Shangri-La – 1128 West Georgia Street

Sinclair Centre – 757 West Hastings Street

Sinclair Centre is an upscale shopping mall in downtown Vancouver. It is located at 757 West Hastings Street between Granville and Howe streets. The centre comprises of four buildings that were restored by Henriquez Partners Architects in 1986 at a cost of $38 million. The main post office was housed here from 1910 until the new one opened in 1958. The Post Office Building is in an Edwardian Baroque style, combining English and French influences. It features an atrium clock consisting of four 12-foot-diameter (3.7 m) clocks built in 1909 and is the largest clock movement in Western Canada; the minute hands alone weigh 92 kilograms (202 pounds) each. In addition to the mall, the building has a seven floor office tower occupied by the federal government. The buildings that comprise the centre are the Post Office (1910), the handsome and architecturally esteemed Winch Building (1911), the Customs Examining Warehouse (1913), and the Federal Building (1937). The mall is home to elite boutiques such as Leone and L2 and Armani, and has a food court.

Source: Wikipedia

Steveston – Britannia Shipyard

The Britannia Heritage Shipyard is an authentic representation of a once thriving community of canneries, boat yards, residences and stores. City of Richmond staff and dedicated volunteers work together to preserve and restore the shipyard and surrounding buildings as an active wooden boat centre and waterfront park. Tour the oldest shipyard buildings in British Columbia, and observe ongoing boat restoration projects as you experience a bygone time when fishing and boatbuilding were flourishing industries on the Fraser River. Many of the buildings date back to 1885 and tell the stories of multiethnic residents and workers at the Britannia Cannery and Britannia Shipyard: Chinese, European, First Nations and Japanese. This collection of buildings has national value and was designated a National Historic Site in 1992 by the National Historic Sites and Monuments Board.

Steveston – Britannia Shipyard

Steveston Museum

In the heart of Steveston Village at 3811 Moncton St. and surrounded by board sidewalks reminiscent of the planked roads and sidewalks that existed here at the turn of the century, this heritage building is a fine example of early prefabrication.

Built in four sections, it was erected on this site in 1905 as the area’s first bank. Entering the museum, visitors will find the original bank manager’s office as well as displays reflecting the old general stores that served this growing community in the early 1900’s.

Upstairs, the dining room and bedroom represent the living quarters of the earliest bank staff that stayed here and doubled as night watchmen and caretakers.

Japanese and Chinese artifacts reflect the presence of these cultures in Steveston and photo displays capture some of the heritage of one of the oldest fishing harbours on the West Coast of Canada.


Vancouver Art Gallery – 750 Hornby Street

The VAG is located in the former main courthouse for Vancouver. The original 165,000-square-foot neoclassical building was designed by Francis Rattenbury after winning a design competition in 1905. Rattenbury also designed the British Columbia Parliament Buildings and the Empress Hotel in Victoria. The design includes ionic columns, a central dome, formal porticos, and ornate stonework. The building was constructed using marble imported from Alaska, Tennessee and Vermont. The new building was constructed in 1906 and replaced the previous courthouse located at Victory Square. At the time, the building contained 18 courtrooms.

An annex designed by Thomas Hooper was added to the western side of the building in 1912. The Annex Building is the only part of the VAG that was not converted to use as an art gallery. It was declared a heritage site and retains the original judges’ benches and walls as they were when the building was a courthouse. On the Georgia Street side of the building is the Centennial Fountain. This fountain was installed in 1966 to commemorate the centennial of the union of the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia.

The steps on both the Robson Street and Georgia Street sides of the building are a popular gathering spot for protest rallies. The Georgia Street side is also a popular place in the summertime for people to relax or socialize.

Source: Wikipedia

Vancouver Public Library – 350 West Georgia Street

The central Vancouver Public Library branch opened in downtown Vancouver on May 26, 1995 and cost 106.8 million CAD to build. It currently holds over 1.75 million items. Consolidating Vancouver Public Library’s Central Branch, Federal Office Tower, and retail and service facilities, the Library Square occupies a city block in the eastward expansion of downtown Vancouver. Centred on the block, the library volume is a nine-story rectangular box containing book stacks and services, surrounded by a
free-standing, elliptical, colonnaded wall featuring reading and study areas that are accessed by bridges spanning skylit light wells.

The library’s internal glass facade overlooks an enclosed concourse formed by a second elliptical wall that defines the east side of the site. This generous, glass-roofed concourse serves as an entry foyer to the library and the more lively pedestrian activities at ground level. Public spaces surrounding the library form a continuous piazza with parking located below grade. The building’s exterior is resembles the Flavian Amphitheatre in Rome (better known by its later name of the Colosseum). In addition to its function as the central branch of the city’s public library system, the one square block project also includes an attached office high-rise, retail shops, restaurants, and underground public parking. The Library building has a rooftop garden designed by Vancouver landscape architect Cornelia Oberlander. The roof garden is not accessible to the public.

Source: Wikipedia

Vancouver Skyline

Vancouver Skyline

Victory Square – 200 West Hastings Street

Rattenbury-designed courthouse on Georgia Street was opened (now the Vancouver Art Gallery). The location had significance when it was chosen, as it stands at the intersection of the old Granville townsite (aka Gastown) and the CPR Townsite, which was the downtown-designated land grant obtained by the CPR as part of the deal to locate the terminus and thereby found the city (the corner of Hastings and Hamilton is the northern tip of the CPR Townsite).

On the northern side of the square, on a plaza flanking Hastings Street, lies the Vancouver war memorial, the Victory Square Cenotaph. The cenotaph is approximately 30 feet tall, and is a triangular edifice whose shape conforms to that of the square. The pillar is of Nelson Island granite engraved with suitable inscriptions, and is kept continuously banked high with wreaths of flowers and adorned with national flags. The Cenotaph was unveiled by His Worship W.R. Owen, Mayor of Vancouver, in the
presence of an assemblage of 25,000 persons; naval, military and civilians. It was dedicated by Hon. Major the Rev. Cecil C. Owen, M.B.E., V.D., D.D., chaplain of the 29th (Vancouver) Battalion, C.E.F. “To the Glory of God, and in thankful remembrance of those who served their King and Country overseas in the cause of truth, righteousness and freedom.

The site of the Cenotaph is significant because it was at tables at the foot of the old courthouse steps where men signed up for World War I in 1914 – which was symbolic for the enlistees because of the strong royalist sentiment in the city, as it was on the courthouse steps where the main ceremonials of the various royal visits to Vancouver had taken place. The courthouse was the location of many official ceremonies, particularly the royal visits of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York in 1901 and the Duke of Connaught in 1912.

During the old courthouse’s tenure the vicinity was the hub of the city’s financial and legal district, with the Vancouver curb exchange operating just across Hastings Street, mostly in a passageway cutting the corner diagonally behind the Astor Hotel. The Inns of Court, a ramshackle and infamously leaky (if decorative) structure on the west side of Courthouse Square, was the location of adjutant legal services and offices connected to the Court House. The Oddfellows Hall and what is now the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans Hall still stand further south (uphill) along Hamilton Street from where the Inns of Court used to be. Most of the original main branches of the major banks were within the next few blocks west along Hastings, which in both directions was the hub of the city’s shopping district until the completion of Pacific Centre in the 1970s, which severed the old pedestrian link between Woodward’s, a block east of Victory Square, and Eaton’s, two blocks west (now the SFU Harbour Centre campus).

On the south side of Victory Square originally stood the Central School, which later became the original Vancouver Community College (then named Vancouver College), adjacent to which was the city’s original main hospital (both were in a brickwork Gothic style). Even once it was known that the courthouse was to be demolished, major construction continued to line the square where it had been. The Province, Sun and Dominion Buildings went up in rapid succession in the last years of the courthouse’s existence, and remain today, although no longer as newspaper buildings. The maple trees on the Pender Street side of the park are the oldest street trees in the city, planted in 1897.

Source: Wikipedia

Wall Centre – 1088 Burrard Street

One Wall Centre, also known as the Sheraton Wall Centre – North Tower, is currently the second-tallest completed building in Vancouver. The skyscraper is located at a high point on the downtown peninsula of Vancouver and its address is 1088 Burrard Street. One Wall Centre was designed by Busby Perkins+Will.

It was completed in 2001 and won the Emporis Skyscraper Award for the Best New Skyscraper the same year. One Wall Centre is 48 storeys tall, the first 27 floors of the building are the 4 Diamond Sheraton Hotel. Floors 28, 29, and 30 are the Club Intrawest Resort floors; which are operated independent of Sheraton. The remaining 17 floors are residential condominiums. The One Wall Centre tower part of the Wall Centre complex owned by Wall Financial Corporation and was largely the vision of Peter Wall.

To counteract possible harmonic swaying during high winds, One Wall has a tuned water damping system at the top level of the building which consists of two specially designed 50,000 gallon water tanks. These tanks are designed so that the harmonic frequency of the sloshing of the water in the tanks counteracts the harmonic frequency of the swaying of the building. The tower exterior has a two-tone appearance. The glass on the lower levels is a dark glass, while the glass on the upper levels is light coloured glass. To satisfy the City of Vancouver Planning Department, who were concerned that the tower would dominate the downtown skyline, it was agreed that it would have a very “light” appearance that would blend in with a blue sky.

The end result is the two toned structure that many consider would have been more architecturally stimulating if the single dark glazing had been allowed. Rumour has it that hotel owner Peter Wall threatened to call off the construction if the city forced him to replace all of the dark-paned glass, so a settlement was reached where only the remaining portion of the building (1/3 of its height) was faced with the typical “Yaletown green” lighter-coloured glass now common in the city’s newer areas.

The attempt to maintain the dark blue appearance did not end there; the windows in the upper third were installed with dark blue blinds facing outwards. If all blinds were to be drawn at once, the building would achieve the intended dark blue appearance.

This building was featured in the movie X-Men: The Last Stand as one of the buildings they used to give the cure to the mutants. The opening sequence of The Core, where a man collapses at a business meeting and the camera pans out to the street to show a number of simultaneous accidents, was filmed here. The plaza directly in front of this building was used in exterior shots for the 1996 Fox TV Series Profit to represent the immediate area outside the corporate offices of fictional Gracen & Gracen Inc (G&G). While the One Wall Centre building did not exist in 1996 when the series was filmed, the two towers immediately adjacent to this building were featured prominently in the series as the corporate headquarters for G&G. The courtyard of the Wall Centre also appears in Caprica’s season 1 episode, Retribution.

Source: Wikipedia

Waterfront Station – 601 West Cordova Street

Waterfront Station is a major intermodal public transportation facility and the main transit terminus in downtown Vancouver and was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1914, and was the Pacific terminus for the CPR’s transcontinental passenger trains to Montreal and Toronto. Waterfront Station’s transformation into a public intermodal transit facility began in 1977.

That year, SeaBus began operating out of a purpose-built floating pier that was connected to the main terminal building via an overhead walkway above the CPR tracks. The CPR’s passenger platform and some of its tracks were torn up in the early 1980s to make way for the guideway of the original SkyTrain line (Expo Line), which opened on December 11, 1985. During Expo 86, SkyTrain operated special shuttle trains between Waterfront Station and Stadium–Chinatown Station, connecting the Canadian Pavilion at Canada Place to the main Expo site along False Creek.

In 1995, platforms were built adjacent to the SkyTrain station for the new West Coast Express, which uses the existing CPR tracks. (The West Coast Express platforms are in the same location as the old CPR platforms.) In 2002, Millennium Line trains began sharing the SkyTrain tracks with the Expo Line. In 2009, the Canada Line opened with a separate platform and entrance/exit point within the grand CPR station. Waterfront Station serves as the common terminus point for all three SkyTrain metro lines.

The main station building was designed in a neoclassical style, with a symmetrical red-brick facade dominated by a row of smooth, white ionic order columns. The ionic columns are repeated in the grand interior hall, flanking the perimeter of the space. The main hall features two larg clocks facing each other high on the east and west walls. Paintings depicting various scenic Canadian landscapes line the walls above the columns.

Source: Wikipedia

Woodward’s – 108 West Cordova Street

The building was built in 1903 by Charles Woodward as the second location for the Woodward’s department store. Woodward’s pioneered the concept of one-stop shopping; the store included a food floor which was at the time North America’s largest supermarket, household items, men’s and women’s fashion, and provided cheque cashing, travel booking and other services. The store was well-known for carrying a large variety of goods that were not available anywhere else. The store soon became a feature attraction in Vancouver, and it expanded over 12 separate phases to a final size of 12 storeys. It occupied approximately 2/3 of the city block.

The popularity of Woodward’s attracted many other businesses to the area. In 1944 the landmark “W” was installed on the top of the building on a 25 metre replica of the Eiffel Tower, replacing a pre-war searchlight-beacon which had until then been the building’s hallmark. The beacon, which was visible at night from as far away as Abbotsford and Mission, was shut down at the beginning of World War II because of its potential use as a landmark for aerial attacks.

Woodward’s fortunes declined as customers gravitated to more suburban malls, but the Vancouver location was also greatly impacted by the transfer of the Eaton’s department store from its location at West Hastings and Richards (a few blocks away), to the uptown location of Pacific Centre kitty-corner from The Bay, which signaled the demise of West Hastings Street as the central retail district in the city. In the 1980s, Woodward’s sold the food floor – long known for its quality and its line of unusual specialties – to Safeway. The flagship food floor became an IGA store until the building closed as Safeway showed no interest in that location. During the same time, the area around the Woodward’s building started to decline socially and economically.

In 1993, Woodward’s went bankrupt and closed its doors. Many of the store’s suburban locations were sold to the Hudson’s Bay Company for conversion to Zellers and Bay stores, but there was little interest in the historic downtown building. The closing of the Woodward’s store precipitated an even more rapid decline in the area. In fall 2002 a small group of community activists occupied the empty building for one week in a campaign to secure social housing from the Provincial government. After the police eviction a tent city was erected on the sidewalks around the building for another three months. The series of events is known as the Woodward’s Squat, or “Woodsquat”, which has been acknowledged for “setting in motion the eventual redevelopment of the landmark department store building”.

The building grew over many years in incremental phases, so the structure varied in each phase of the building. The majority of the building was supported by concrete slabs and columns with only the original 1903-08 building using massive heavy timber construction from the old growth forests that were available near Vancouver at the turn of the 20th century. Much of the square footage of the building was not retail space; mazes of stockrooms and offices comprised the much of the building’s space, outside the view of customers.

On the morning of September 30, 2006 all but the oldest original portion (1903-08 building) of the Woodward’s structure was demolished with a “roll-over” implosion by Pacific Blasting which signaled the beginning of the construction of the new complex of buildings. In 2003 the City of Vancouver led by Jim Green purchased the building from the province for $5 million, and began a public consultation process, asking the community what they wanted from the redevelopment. After a two stage competition between three developers in September 2004 the city selected Westbank Projects/Peterson Investment Group to develop and Gregory Henriquez of Henriquez Partners Architects to lead the design of the new buildings, with Glotman Simpson as the Structural Engineers.

The 400 million dollar project (almost one million square feet in size) includes 536 market housing units, 125 singles non-market housing units to be operated by PHS Community Services, 75 family non-market housing units to be operated by Affordable Housing Society, Nesters Food Store and London Drugs, TD Canada Trust, The National Film Board of Canada and civic offices, a daycare, public atrium and plaza, and a new addition to the Simon Fraser University downtown campus: the 130,000 sf School for Contemporary Arts. The oldest part of the complex (built 1903–1908) has been restored, and serves as non-profit office and community space, with tenants including W2 Community Media Arts. The “W” neon sign, which topped the building on the Eiffel Tower replica, was removed before the demolition and has been replicated and installed on the new development. In 2008 the Vancouver artist Stan Douglas completed a 30′ by 50′ image on glass depicting the Gastown Riots of 1971. The original “W” now sits just outside the new development in a courtyard.

Source: Wikipedia

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