Archive for the ‘Burrard Building’ Tag

400 Burrard Street

400 Burrard 1

Here’s the south-east corner of Burrard and West Hastings (looking east) in 1974. The simple, modern looking 2-storey building was occupied by the Bank of British Columbia. We’re reasonably sure this was a McCarter and Nairne design from 1949 for Burrard Building Operations Ltd. In 1952 it was called the Burrard Building (the name was moved once the new much bigger building was completed a few years later to the south). The early tenants included stock brokers and insurance companies, including the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. The bank show occupying the building in 1974 was the second business with that name, and they were entirely unrelated. The first bank premises are still standing, and we featured them earlier in the life of this blog. The second bank was the creation of W A C Bennett in 1966, designed to allow more local control for making decisions on loans to BC businesses. By the mid 1980s there were $2.7bn in funds and over 1,400 employees, but serious management problems led to the bank being absorbed in 1986 by the Hong Kong Bank of Canada (today’s HSBC).

Across the lane to the south the edge of the first Bentall Building can be seen – a five-storey concrete building that was the first substantial office to be built in the city after the Second World War, in the early 1950s. It was almost certainly designed by Bentall’s Dominion Construction, probably with input from Charles Bentall.

Today it’s Commerce Place, a silver reflective office complex designed by Waisman Dewar Grout Carter and completed 30 years ago.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives  CVA 778-15


The Burrard Building

Burrard Building

CBK Van Norman was one of Vancouver’s most respected architects of the International Modern style. He was born in Ontario in 1906, studied in Manitoba, and worked for Townley and Matheson in Vancouver from 1928-1930 and sometimes with McCarter Nairne from 1930 to 1950. From 1955 to 1968 he practiced exclusively under his own name and designed some important Vancouver buildings, some of them already lost (including the Customs House). Van Norman was also part of the design team for the Royal Centre; his contribution to the design was the buttresses on the corners being used for the air conditioning and other systems.

The Burrard Building, built between 1955 and 1957, is still with us. The architect described the building as offering “a modern functional office space, a prestige address, and a choice downtown location”. With no local firm capable of building it, Van Norman hired the Utah Company of America to build his 200,000 square foot building and then was met with delays as the complicated skin took longer to assemble than expected. The original curtain wall design was switched to allow air conditioning to be installed, and the replacement design involved 18 by 10 foot panels , eight inches thick, attached directly into the steel frame.

Burrard Building 1956 brochureIn 1988 Musson Cattell designed a new skin for the building which changed it from a strongly horizontal oriented tower into a more contemporary glazed box. Interestingly, this actually reflects quite closely what Van Norman showed on a 1956 brochure for the building – in some ways the building today more closely resembles it than the 1950s version as built.

The building is still popular with tenants, and vacant suites are generally leased quickly. Although the site is one of very few Downtown that has no viewcones crossing it – and hence no height limit for a replacement building – leases on the few suites on offer today are for up to 10 years, suggesting the owners are in no hurry to cash in on its redevelopment potential.


Posted January 7, 2013 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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