West Georgia Street – 1200 block, north side

The heritage apartment building on the corner of West Georgia and Bute in this 1981 picture is called The Banff today, but started life as Florence Court. Designed by H B Watson, it was built for an Irish-born real estate broker called James Byrne in 1909. In 1999 The Venus, a 34 storey condo tower was built to the west, replacing low commercial buildings. There were car showrooms here in the 1910s, (as we saw in the previous posts) and an original early 1900s house until at least 1948.

The next building down the street is one of the earliest international style office buildings in the city, and pretty much the only one that hasn’t been altered or re-clad. Completed in 1959 for Imperial Oil, it was designed by Hal Semmens soon after his partnership with Douglas Simpson had ended. The building is clad in two shades of grey, a darker blue grey and a pale grey, both in opaque glass, divided into a series of horizontal rectangular panels. Although founded in Ontario, Imperial has had a long history in Vancouver, opening Canada’s first service station in the city in 1907.

Across Jervis, on the shorter 1300 block, another condo tower was added in 1997. The Pointe is one of Bing Thom’s earliest towers, using an angled frame aligned with the street on a building partly set at an acute angle (to align with the Pender Street angle to the north) to create a dynamic design that’s unlike any other Vancouver residential tower. It was an early project for Grand Adex, a Concord Pacific related company, and was designed with Hancock Bruckner Eng and Wright.

Beyond it is a 1969 building, now a heritage building, built as the headquarters for the now defunct West Coast Transmission Co. Its unique characteristics were designed by Rhone and Iredale, collaborating with Bogue Babicki, a Polish-born engineer who worked on some of the most iconic Vancouver buildings including the Law Courts and Science World. The structure is designed to withstand a strong earthquake, and is said to be based on analyzing large trees that had survived earthquakes in other regions. They are able to sway during the quake and are therefore able to dissipate energy.

The building was designed with a concrete core to act as the trunk, with the elevators and utilities running vertically. The rest of the building was then hung from the core (with the frames starting from the top down, seen here in 1969) using steel cables to support them from the top. The cladding was then added from the bottom up. Over time the cables stretched a little, so there was a slight slope on the floors.

The building was converted in 2006 to residential use, and given a new name, Qube, with new replacement glazed walls to reasonably closely match the original (but now with opening windows, as required by residential code). It still ends up suspended some distance above the ground, with just the core reaching the ground (a detail lost from this distance, and with street trees along Georgia).

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-W14.03

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Posted January 13, 2020 by ChangingCity in Still Standing

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