Hornby Street – 900 Block (1)

900 Hornby east 1

Adding colour, and 30 years can make quite a difference. Here’s two 1981 images showing the one-year old Law Courts that were part of the re-thought Robson Square complex. In the early 1970s a 50 storey 600 foot tower would have been on the site if the WAC Bennett Government plan had been followed. Instead Arthur Erickson designed the Dave Barrett NDP ‘tower on its back’ that we have today, completed in 1980. It’s still nearly 140 feet tall, and has 35 courtrooms on seven levels, but the most striking thing today is the integral landscaping that has vines trailing from every floor, and trees carefully sited in mounds and pits that create an entire elevated park through the complex, designed by Cornelia Oberlander.

900 Hornby east 2

Originally the 1,300,000 square foot complex cost $139 million. After thirty years of use it recently saw a multi-million dollar restoration that included replacement membranes and re-sealing the waterproofing throughout the buildings. The waterfall is running again as well, and all the planting was carefully removed and returned, or replanted so there’s still a mature 30-year old landscape. The double row of red maples that line the Hornby sidewalk (and flank the new bike lane) have done a bit of root damage to the sidewalk surface – but nothing like what would have happened in Erickson’s preferred Plane Trees had been planted.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-W07.24 and CVA 779-W07.31


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