Archive for the ‘Cesar Pelli’ Tag

Granville Street – south to the Pacific Centre

Granville south 3

This early 1974 image shows the second of the ‘dark towers’ of Pacific Centre under construction. The IBM Tower, as it was first known, was a shorter sibling to the TD Tower to the south and slightly west, completed a couple of years earlier. The steel framed towers were designed by Cesar Pelli who was at the time working for Victor Gruen Associates in Los Angeles. Many descriptions identify the design as ‘Miesian’ after the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who perfected the simple structured office tower – one of the best examples is the Seagram Building that he designed in 1958. In Canada his Toronto-Dominion Centre was the real thing; like the Pacific Centre it was developed by Fairview Corporation five years earlier than the pacific Centre in 1967, with Mies as design consultant. Vancouver’s was similar in many respects, but the towers’ colour was slightly richer; more brown when the sun hits it than the dark bronze of most Mies buildings.

We can date this image from the construction of the tower, and from the street. In 1974 Granville was designated as a transit mall, and general traffic was removed. The 2010 redesign widened the sidewalks and straightened the streets. Public consultation responses also led to the street trees in this stretch of Granville remaining in place. (Elsewhere they were replaced with more appropriate varieties than had been planted previously).

The ‘Dark Towers’ of the Pacific Centre as they were known at the time (and not the “towers of darkness” quoted more recently) were not universally welcomed. Later phases of the project were approved on the understanding that they’d be lighter coloured; the Cannacord Tower (as it’s now called – it started as the Stock Exchange Tower) at 609 Granville was completed in 1981 with a paler beige finish. It was the fourth tower to be completed after the Four Season Hotel, which was also lighter. Here the glazing and panels on the office are pretty much the same dimensions as the darker towers; it’s just the colour that changed. McCarter Nairne are credited with the design, but Cesar Pelli was still involved.

After nearly a decade another phase of the mall was built to the north, with a corner store for Holt Renfrew. It replaced a modest 1960 2-storey building and was redesigned a couple of years ago by New York designers Janson Goldstein as this image (and an earlier post) show more clearly. It replaced the Tunstall Block built as 3 storeys in 1902, and 1909 (when 2 more floors were added). The small building next door with the arched top floor windows was originally designed by G W Grant for builder (and owner) Bedford Davidson in 1903. A year earlier the same team had built the two small buildings two buildings further north (hidden by trees in the 1981 image), while the four storey building with the Ingledew’s Shoes mural is the work of Hooper & Watkins who designed the building in 1907 for Gordon Drysdale (with a later addition by S B Birds).

Granville & Dunsmuir nw 1

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 800-452 and CVA 779-W01.34



701 Granville Street (4)

Granville south 1

As we noted in a previous post, the original retail store for Eatons on ‘Block 52’ in Downtown was a couple of storeys shorter than building that has recently been given a comprehensive makeover by owners Cadillac Fairview. The initial 1973 building, designed by Cesar Pelli with local architects McCarter Nairne Associates was in practice a rework of an even earlier design. Back in 1966 noted architect I M Pei was hired by the Fairview Corporation (which was established in 1958 as the real estate division of Cemp Investments, the holding company of the Bronfman family). His design for the retail store was relatively unchanged in the Pelli design; even the semi-circular corner entrance off Georgia was in the original design. The TD tower was quite different (and somewhat taller) with a white concrete grid design similar in some ways to the 200 Granville building on the waterfront, (the only tower from the ‘Project 200’ development that was built).

Our picture (above) must date from around 1974, when the IBM Tower (in the foreground to the right of the picture) was nearing completion, and the transit mall had yet to be built. There’s a sliver of the Birks building showing on the left. The image below probably dates from 1973, when the tower frame construction was well on the way. The construction was steel – not a construction system we see too often these days.

Eatons Granville 2

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 800-450 and CVA 800-441


701 Granville Street (3)

700 Howe (not Granville)

Here are two more images that illustrate how different the 1981 Eatons incarnation of the Pacific Centre Mall departmental store was to the newly reclad and reconfigured building that’s there today. On the Howe Street side the building still offers little relief; it’s a box with emergency exit doors at ground level. The entrance ramp to the underground parking cuts into the sidewalk (and the entry ramp up the street crosses it on the corner in a way that traffic engineers would never allow today).

On the Granville Street side the design wasn’t significantly more pedestrian friendly; there was a narrow black slot window, and then emergency exits (that had to be retained in the redesign). The entire remaining building face was composed of concrete ‘stone’ panels; windowless except for another black slot under a curved metal façade on the top floor.

700 Granville 1

Further north along Granville the previous inset entrance has been filled in, and there are display windows rather than black glass panels.

Granville south 2

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-W02.16, CVA 779-W02.19, and CVA 800-848


701 Granville Street (2)

Sears Nordstrom 5

Our previous post looked at the recent changes to the retail box designed in 1973 by Cesar Pelli at Victor Gruen Associates with McCarter Nairne and Associates as local architects. The 2012 building wasn’t by any means how it looked when it was initially designed, or back in 1981 when these images were shot. Construction work was still underway adding the top floors in a McCarter Nairne design that earned it the nickname of “The Great White Urinal”. (The curved top, which was metal rather than concrete, was, when clean, quite shiny – which didn’t help).

The Howe and Robson corner (above), shows the original slot entrance; a more dramatic black and white element. The 1999 reconfiguration opened it up; the contemporary building brightens it even more. The 1999 changes on the Granville and Robson corner were more dramatic – the original design didn’t have any glazing at all; the blank concrete faced the street corner. The 1999 rework opened up the corner a bit, but today’s version is very different.

Pacific Centre 1

There was a semi-circular drum facing the plaza in front of the TD tower. When the building was completed a soaring sculpture by George Norris was installed. It was removed and donated to City of Surrey in 1988, who waited 8 years before selling it for scrap.

Sears Nordstrom 6

The upper four floors of office space have been given an entrance on the Georgia Street plaza, and named as 725 Granville. There was some doubt that the huge floorplates would find tenants – in practice the space was leased before the building work was completed. Lawyers Miller Thomson were the first to sign up, and they were joined by Sony Pictures Imageworks (who moved their entire operation from California to occupy the fifth floor) and Microsoft, who occupy over 140,000 square feet of space on the top two floors.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-W02.17, CVA 779-W02.10 and CVA 779-W02.18


701 Granville Street (1)

Sears Nordstrom 3

This is the most recent ‘before’ image we’ve posted. We hadn’t even shot it when we started blogging here less than four years (and 500 posts) ago. Despite the relatively short passage of time, the building looks very different. It also evolved quite a bit over the years before our 2012 image, above, as we’ll show in the next few posts.

In 2012 Sears were heading into their final closing sale in Downtown. They had moved into the space occupied by Eaton’s when they acquired that company in 1999 after T Eaton & Co filed for bankruptcy in 1997. An initial attempt at re-launching the Eaton’s brand failed, and the long lease that Sears held on the Pacific Centre property saw them rebrand as Sears, although they didn’t fill all the floors. Sears never seemed to be particularly successful, despite having little lower cost competition Downtown, and eventually Cadillac Fairview, the building’s owner, made them an offer to buy back the remaining period of the lease, and started to plan for a new use for the building. (Sears had previously been the retail tenant in the Harbour Centre, where Eaton’s had also previously been located (before Harbour Centre was developed) when they took over the Spencer’s Department store in 1948).

When Sears closed there were seven floors of store space and a basement. Cadillac Fairview already had a taker for some of that space: Nordstrom’s the Seattle-based retailer wanted to enter the Vancouver market, and wanted a large floorplate space Downtown – but only three floors. Although Cadillac Fairview  had considered demolishing the building, the idea of repurposing the steel frame of the 600,000 square foot structure allowed a much faster build-out. Nordstrom’s occupy nearly half the above grade structure. The basement floor has a new access from the street and is a continuation of the underground mall section of Pacific Centre that was completed in 1973. The top four floors had two light-well spaces pushed into the centre of the building and office space created.

Sears Nordstrom Granville 1

The original design was by Cesar Pelli, working at the time for Victor Gruen Associates in Los Angeles (although Gruen had returned to his native Austria when the mall was designed). The local architectural partners were McCarter Nairne and Associates. Pelli’s buildings had simple, dramatic black and white elements. The TD tower (and the slightly later IBM Tower) were clad in very dark brown glass that looked black much of the time. The retail box was clad in white concrete ‘reconstituted stone’ – described a year after completion as showing ‘a predilection for austerity’. It started life at five storeys, but two more were added in the early 1980s. The recent reconfiguration and recladding of the building were designed by James K M Cheng.

The building is now much more open and glazed (with 1,700 new panels of glass), with an attempt to break down the bulk of the box and to reflect the design of other Nordstrom stores that frequently feature cream limestone. Over 91 per cent of the previous building has been re-purposed or recycled – over 6.8-million kilograms of material. The concrete panels were taken to Langley Airport to create roughly 6,000 square metres of new roadway. Other concrete went through a crusher and was ground down to gravel and sand. Gypsum was extracted and reused as new stock and wood went into a chipper and was reused as biofuel.


First Hotel Vancouver, second addition

We have shown this image as it looked about three years later already, but the trees in that picture pretty much obscure the third addition to the Hotel Vancouver. In 1901 The Canadian Pacific Railway again hired Francis Rattenbury to design a new wing of the hotel. It took a while to build, but apparently opened around 1904.

It was in an Italianate style, and from the postcard here it rather looks as if they expected to demolish the first hotel designed by T C Sorby. But as the picture above shows, the eastern wing of the addition was never completed. Instead it was cut off rather alarmingly and there would be a nearly ten year gap before the CPR were ready to replace the hotel and the first addition, also designed by Rattenbury. When they did that, they brought in new architects, initially W S Painter and later Francis Swales, who prepared a series of different designs all reasonably similar in style to the second addition which was incorporated into the final building. Both parts of the hotel had postcards celebrating their appearance.

Today as we have noted several times recently we have the Pacific Centre Mall. The second addition sat where today the TD Tower is located. Cesar Pelli designed the two dark towers (they’re brown, but appear almost black unless the sun is shining on them).


First Hotel Vancouver – Granville & Georgia

The Canadian Pacfic Railway needed a hotel to serve the passengers arriving on their trains at the station located at the foot of Granville Street. T C Sorby had designed the station, and he got the job of designing the hotel too. It was up Granville – not too far, but enough to leave some space for new CPR sponsored commercial buildings, and to pull some activity away from the earlier city centre to the east, where there were already plenty of hotels (none of them on CPR land).

Sorby’s hotel opened in mid 1888 to a design that even he didn’t like – complaining of CPR cutting what they considered to be superfluous details – which in those days were what architecture was often about. (That’s it on the left in about 1890, soon after it was completed.) The CPR were supposedly equally unimpressed – Sir William Van Horne, the CPR President is reported to have said to Sorby “so you’re the damn fool who spoilt the building with all those little windows”. One local newspaper even likened the building’s design to a workhouse. An 1897 newspaper, ‘The Ledge’ published a story which ran “The Vancouver World publishes a long letter from the executive agent of the C. P. R. to the city council, requesting exemption from taxation for buildings proposed to be erected for a passenger station and warehouses. The World publishes cuts of the proposed structures which are said to be in the Queen Anne style of architecture and are fully in keeping with that monument of external ugliness, the company’s hotel Vancouver. The architectural illustrations in the World resemble a compound of a decayed grist-mill with bits of the bastile and the tower of London added.”

Presumably looking for a better response the CPR hired Francis Rattenbury to design the 1893 addition to the south. Rattenbury was only relatively recently arrived in Canada, but at the age of only 25 he had just won the competition for the new parliament buildings in Victoria. In Yorkshire, where he had arrived from, he had been designing buildings in the ‘model’ mill town of Saltaire – or so he told the Vancouver Sun, although actually he hadn’t even been born when that development had taken place. His design for the hotel extention didn’t really have much to do with the original building – that’s it to the left of the ‘before’ image above from 1904, five storeys high. Although Sorby’s hotel was identified for replacement as early as 1900 it was still around for a few more years.

Rattenbury was hired to design a further extention to the original in 1901, which he carried out in an Italienate style that isn’t so very different from his design for the city’s new courthouse five years later. Rattenbury fell out with the CPR, and anyway was busy with other projects including the Empress Hotel in Victoria, so in 1910 architects Painter and Swales were hired to replace a much bigger and more elaborate replacement for both the first hotel and the 1893 addition which was eventually finished in 1916. We’ll feature that building in a future post or two.

These days the site has the Cesar Pelli / McCarter and Nairne designed Pacific Centre Mall which is now anticipated to see a major redesign in the near future with Sears having confirmed their intention of leaving later in 2012.


York Hotel – 790 Howe Street

The York Hotel sat at the corner of  Howe and Robson. It first appears in the street directories in 1930, and was still going as the York Motor Hotel in 1968, just before it was cleared away for the Pacific Centre Mall project, where the City of Vancouver used compulsory purchase powers to assemble the double block needed for the underground shopping mall thought necessary to compete with new suburban malls.

The York doesn’t look like a 1930 building – and that’s because it wasn’t. It was built in 1911 as an annex for the Hotel Vancouver at a cost of $190,000. It seems likely that it was built to maintain a CPR hotel presence while the first Hotel Vancouver was demolished and the second Hotel Vancouver – the more flamboyant one – was built. That hotel was demolished after the Second World War. The Honeyman and Curtis designed annex was more restrained, and eventually it lasted longer.

The designer of the postcard for the York were using their artistic licence to its full extent. The cloudy sky to the north is added to cover the much larger and flashy Hotel Vancouver, and the massive laundry chimney that gave the block a distinctly industrial feel. Amazingly the flag that appears in many similar postcards really was on the building – which is by no means true of every appearance. The top of the Vancouver Block on Granville Street was also carefully removed.

These days the much unloved Sears building, designed by Cesar Pelli while working for LA architect Victor Gruen sits on the site. Owners Cadillac Fairview have paid a small fortune to buy the Sears lease to allow the building to be reconfigured. Current rumours suggest a new major retail tenant below, and the top four floors of retail turned into 300,000 square feet of offices around a new atrium. As much of the concrete wall would be removed and replaced with glazing as can reasonably achieved.


Posted 2 April 2012 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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West Georgia from Howe eastwards

That’s the 1925 part of the Hudson’s Bay building in the centre of this 1953 image, but everything else has changed. The Bay has recently received a comprehensive restoration of the terra cotta facade of the building designed by Burke, Horwood & White of Toronto. They used almost identical designs in Victoria and Winnipeg at around the same time. The Bay had been at this location since 1893, although they started off in the city further north and east on Cordova Street in around 1887. At some point we’ll post a before and after of the building this part of the store replaced, a brick building from 1893.

The facade of the new (and current) Hudson’s Bay store was supplied by the American Terra Cotta & Ceramic Co of Chicago, and the bit you can see here is the second phase from 1925 replacing the 1893 building, which joined to the 1914 building (which was further east on the corner of Seymour and Georgia).

The next stage of the restoration of the Bay building will be new glazed canopies, signs and lighting, more in keeping with the heritage building and creating a better sidewalk than the current solid canopies. The huge change in the recent picture is the arrival of the Pacific Centre Mall, completed in 1974. This part of the complex was designed by McCarter Nairne with Cesar Pelli working at Victor Gruen and Associates of Los Angeles. The dark tower was the Stock Exchange Tower when it was built. The rotunda entrance is likely to be replaced at some point with a retail use and a revised mall entrance.

Image source: BC Archives


Granville Street – 700 block west side (1)

Not many people think the contemporary building is an improvement on the 1920s pictured here. Granville Mansions stood on the corner, the Orpheum Theatre (not the current one) stood next door, and then the Hotel Vancouver (the second one, not the current one either). Originally the theatre site was where the Canadian Pacific Railway put the Opera House. The Hotel Vancouver was demolished in 1946. Granville Mansions were built around 1907 and Mayor L D Taylor lived there for many years, as did his employee and future wife Alice Berry.

The Mansions were damaged in a 1957 fire, and replaced in the early 1970s with Cesar Pelli’s retail building for Eatons (now Sears, part of the Pacific Centre Mall). Pelli was working with Victor Gruen and Associates of Los Angeles, and McCarter Nairne were the local associate architects. The curved off-white concrete box has not aged well (although the TD and IBM towers to the north by the same architectural team are now less controversial than when first built and dubbed ‘The Black Towers’).

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 371-820