BC Hydro Building – Burrard Street


Today it’s called The Electra, and it’s a mix of condo residential and commercial units. It was converted from an office building in 1995, and had to have a new skin as offices generally don’t have opening windows, but that’s a requirement for residential space. The building was completed in 1957 as BC Electric’s new headquarters. The office was stunning in its setting when it was developed; over 20 storeys, every window lit up every night, surrounded by low-rise commercial buildings and decades old wooden houses. Built by John Laing, it was designed by Ned Pratt with Ron Thom of Thompson, Berwick, Pratt, and the flattened lozenge shape was a result of the client’s requirement that desks should be no more than 15 feet from a window, for natural light as well as the view.

Leslie Sheraton’s picture was shot in 1958, when the buildings on Burrard Street included a car dealership; Sherwood Motors, offering Willys 4-wheel-drive and jeep, as well as English Rover, Humber, Nash and Hillman cars. There was also a White Spot, still owned at the time by Nat Bailey, and offering the latest innovation – ‘Take Home Chicken Dinners – just Heat and Serve”.

Artist B.C. Binning’s blue, green and black mosaic tiles were an integral part of the building’s design, and were carefully preserved when the conversion to residential and office condos was carried out, designed by Paul Merrick Architects. During that conversion the Hornby Street side of the building was given a far more animated façade.

Todat Peter Busby’s Wall Centre tower is much taller, behind the Electra from this angle, and Electric Avenue is in front, a 456 unit condo building designed by Rafii architects and completed in 2005. The complex also has a multi-screen Cineplex movie theatre and retail stores (mostly restaurants). The White Spot was replaced in 1983 with a 71 unit condo building designed by Eng and Wright. Tucked in behind the street trees, the two storey 1938 car dealership is still there, repurposed as a Denny’s restaurant and retail uses decades ago.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 2008-022.045


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