YOU SHOULD KNOW: More About The Mid-Century Marvel That Is The Electra Building

September 17, 2013.

IMG_9747

by Stevie Wilson | Vancouver is a young city, one that features a remarkable development trajectory that sometimes muddies our concept of what is historic, what is modern, and what falls somewhere in-between. The city has grown exponentially since its incorporation 127 years ago, and while there still exists plenty of awe-inspiring heritage in every neighbourhood, it’s clear that development – namely real estate – has taken precedence over the establishment of heritage sites. Fortunately, the Electra Building at Burrard and Nelson is one of the unique examples where history has been accommodated to complement Vancouver’s ever-transforming identity as a modern city.

Built between 1955-1957, the 21-storey skyscraper was known then as the BC Electric Company Building, and features many of the recognizable traits found in mid-century postwar design. Noted Canadian architect Ronald Thom and lead architect Ned Pratt, of Thompson, Berwick & Pratt were the principal design team behind the iconic landmark, whose thin, lozenge shape reflected the Modernist trend towards geometric-inspired design. However, the building’s unique shape also served a practical purpose:

From Exploring Vancouver:

“It was B.C. Electric chairman Dal Grauer who (despite being in the business of selling electricity) insisted that every desk be within 15 feet of a window. . . Safir’s (Otto, engineer) solution was to have all systems distributed via the central shaft off which floors branch out, cantilevered, column free with daylight and a view for each worker.”

Hydroelectric power had been a prime focus of the postwar provincial economy, which relied heavily on grand infrastructure as a symbol of growth and development. In addition to numerous eye-catching structural attributes, the building features typical mid-century elements: west coast-inspired mosaic wall tiles and facade (the work of celebrated Canadian artist B.C. Binning), terrazzo paving, geometrical detailing, and re-enforced concrete finishing, among many others. Adjacent to the building lies the Dal Grauer Substation, completed in 1954; it currently sits on the Vancouver Heritage Society’s 2010 list of Endangered Sites.

The former BC Electric building was known for its iconic presence in the mid-century landscape of Downtown Vancouver, particularly because its lights were left on all hours of the day for several years (you know, to illustrate how cool hydroelectricity was). It literally stood as a beacon of industry, modernity, and prosperity, and for many years was one of the tallest buildings in the city. The spot featured an audio presence, too. Musical horns on the roof played the opening notes of “Oh Canada” each day at noon – a distinction now passed to the Pan Pacific at Canada Place.

Upon Grauer’s death in 1961, the operations of BC Electric were transferred to the province to be continued under the BC Hydro moniker, and the offices were eventually moved to Burnaby in the late 1990s. Years later, the redevelopment of the building into condominiums signaled the first major transition of its kind in Vancouver. In order to give this project the go-ahead, the city required heritage designation to be issued, with facsimile (operational) windows, porcelain, and other features installed to match the original aesthetics. The Electra, as it now stands, was the first post-1940s building in Vancouver to be granted heritage status.

For more information on the mind behind the design of the Electra Building, visit the new exhibit Ron Thom and the Allied Arts on now at the West Vancouver Museum.

YOU SHOULD KNOW EVEN MORE

——————————————————————————————-

Stevie Wilson is a historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she’s decided to branch out with a cryptic agenda: encouraging the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with You Should Know, a Scout column that aims to reveal to readers the many historial things that they already see but might not undertstand.

#ScoutThis

There are 3 comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You Should Know Local histories and mysteries...

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About The 100 Year Old Diapering Of Architects Townsend + Townsend

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About The 100 Year Old Diapering Of Architects Townsend + Townsend

by Christine Hagemoen | Have you ever noticed some older brick buildings around town that feature a distinctive diamond shaped pattern in the brickwork? The… more 

FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #461 | ‘War Authority’ Reminds Us Of Pandora’s Open Box

FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #461 | ‘War Authority’ Reminds Us Of Pandora’s Open Box

War Authority is a short documentary film that examines the 2001 "Authorization for the Use of Military Force" (AUMF) which gave the US President "almost… more 

1,000 COOL THINGS ABOUT VANCOUVER | The Social Seating Experiment At Timbertrain

1,000 COOL THINGS ABOUT VANCOUVER | The Social Seating Experiment At Timbertrain

1,000 Cool Things About Vancouver is a pretty self-explanatory Scout column that gives equal weight to the common attributes and obscure intangibles that make… more 

FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #460 | Paris Bar Successfully Predicts US Election Results

FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #460 | Paris Bar Successfully Predicts US Election Results

(via) If you're especially nervous about tomorrow's US Presidential Election, delete FiveThirtyEight from your bookmarks, make yourself a French 75 and relax… more 

FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #459 | Bird’s Eye View Of The 1,954 Mile US-Mexico Border

FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #459 | Bird’s Eye View Of The 1,954 Mile US-Mexico Border

(via) With the 2016 US Presidential Election race tightening (thanks Comey, you jerk) we found this video especially poignant. Best Of Luck With The Wall is a… more 

HEADS UP | Photo Exhibition Gets In Close To The Floating Behemoths That Visit Our Shores

HEADS UP | Photo Exhibition Gets In Close To The Floating Behemoths That Visit Our Shores

by Andrew Morrison | For many years now one of our family past-times is to count the freighters parked in Burrard Inlet. There's usually about a dozen or so… more 

VANCOUVER LEXICON | Russell Foods Building

VANCOUVER LEXICON | Strathcona's Iconic 'Moderne' Warehouse At Venables & Clark Dr.

Russell Foods Building | Historical Building | A massive, Moderne-style warehouse on the corner of Venables and Clark Drive in Strathcona. Built circa 1937,… more 

FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #453 | Chats With Commie Aliens In The Former Yugoslavia

FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #453 | Chats With Commie Aliens In The Former Yugoslavia

From the fantastical Department of WTF (specifically the seldom heard from Special Balkan Division) comes Ruben Woodin-Dechamps and Oscar Hudson's bizarrely… more 

The scout Community

49th Parallel Coffee Roasters & Lucky’s Doughnuts Acorn Agrius Alibi Room Ancora Waterfront Dining & Patio AnnaLena Araxi Ask For Luigi Au Comptoir Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie Bar Oso Bauhaus Beach Bay Café & Patio Beaucoup Bakery & Cafe Bel Café Bestie Bishop’s Bistro Pastis Bistro Wagon Rouge Bittered Sling Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar Bottleneck Bufala Burdock & Co. Cabrito Cacao Cadeaux Bakery Café Medina Caffè Artigiano Camp Lifestyle + Coffee Co. Campagnolo Campagnolo ROMA Cartems Donuterie Chambar Chefs’ Table Society of BC Chez Christophe Chocolaterie Patisserie  Chicha Chill Winston ChocolaTas Chocolate Arts Cibo Trattoria Cinara CinCin Ristorante + Bar Cioffi’s Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill Cocktails & Canapes Catering + Events Cook Culture Culinary Capers Catering & Special Events Dirty Apron Cooking School & Delicatessen District Brasserie Dixie’s Authentic Texas BBQ Earnest Ice Cream Edible Canada Elementa Espana Exile Bistro Fable Fanny Bay Farmer’s Apprentice Fat Badger Fat Mao Fernwood Coffee Company Field & Social Forage Giovane Cafe + Eatery Gotham Steakhouse & Bar Grain Granville Island Grapes & Soda Greenhorn Espresso Bar Gyoza Bar Harkness & Co. Harvest Community Foods Hawksworth Restaurant Heirloom Heritage Asian Eatery Homer Street Cafe & Bar Hy’s Steakhouse Irish Heather Jamjar JJ Bean Joy Road Catering Juice Truck Juke Fried Chicken Juniper Keefer Bar Kin Kao Kissa Tanto Knifewear Kozakura Kuma Tofino L’Abattoir La Buca La Mezcaleria La Pentola La Quercia La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop Latab Wine Bar Les Amis du Fromage Lions Pub, The Liquidity Bistro Little District Lobby Lounge + RawBar Longtail Kitchen Made By Pacific Maenam Mamie Taylor’s MARKET by Jean-Georges Matchstick Coffee Roasters Meat & Bread Meinhardt Fine Foods Miku Restaurant Milano Coffee Minami Miradoro Mission Mister Mogiana Coffee Mosquito Nero Belgian Waffle Bar Nicli Antica Pizzeria Nightingale Nomad Nook Nuba Oakwood Canadian Bistro OLO OPUS Bar Oru Osteria Savio Volpe Oyama Sausage Co. Pallet Coffee Roasters Pat’s Pub & BrewHouse Phoenix Perennials Pidgin Pied-à-Terre Pizzeria Farina Pointe Restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn, The Pourhouse Railtown Cafe Railtown Catering Rain Or Shine Ice Cream Red Wagon, The Revolver Coffee Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. Royal Dinette Sai Woo Salt Tasting Room Salty Tongue Café Savoury Chef Shaughnessy Restaurant Shebeen Whisk(e)y House Shelter Shika Provisions Siena Six Acres Sophie’s Cosmic Cafe Sorella Stable House, The Steel Toad Brewpub & Dining Hall Tableau Bar Bistro Tacofino Tavola Terra Breads Thierry Thomas Haas Chocolates & Patisserie Timber Timbertrain Coffee Roasters Torafuku Tractor Foods Truffles Fine Foods Two Rivers Specialty Meats UBC Farm Uncommon Cafe, The Urban Digs Farm Uva Wine & Cocktail Bar Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise™ Program Vij’s Restaurant Virtuous Pie West Restaurant Wildebeest Wolf In The Fog YEW seafood

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged. It was .

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged. It was .