Rediscovering the Vancouver Lookout

Photo: Remy Scalza

It seems like there was a brief era in the ’60s and ’70s when towering, space-age observation decks were really, really cool.   You weren’t a modern, up-and-coming city unless you had one.  It was during that time that Seattle got its iconic Space Needle (1962), Toronto got the CN Tower (1976) and Vancouver got a unique addition to its cityscape, the flying saucer-shaped Lookout atop the Harbour Centre (1977).

Times have changed, of course.  These days, it’s really not en vogue to clutter up your skyline with monumental, not entirely practical, towers.  Plus, lots of plain old apartment buildings in Vancouver now rival – and even surpass – the Harbour Centre’s height of 181 meters (25 stories).   So my question is – in the year 2010 – does the Vancouver Lookout still have a role to play in the city?

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Rediscovering the Vancouver Lookout

View from the Top: Inside the Vancouver Lookout at the Harbour Centre Tower

Looking up at the Vancouver Lookout at Harbour Centre from the street

I recently had the pleasure of taking a downtown Vancouver tour—it’s always fun to be a tourist in your own city—during which we went up to the Vancouver Lookout at the Harbour Centre.

There are many reasons to love the Vancouver Lookout. There’s the glass-elevator ride that takes you up 167 metres (and always makes me feel like I’m in a Roald Dahl novel). There’s the Lookout itself, offering spectacular, enclosed, 360° views of Metro Vancouver. And then there’s the perspective-changing act of seeing the city from so far above, which never fails to surprise me. It’s just such a different view of Vancouver than I’m used to, and it really brings home the remarkable density in the downtown core.

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View from the Top: Inside the Vancouver Lookout at the Harbour Centre Tower