More Martians Needed

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Maybe Martians should land more often in this city.

I like this proposed tower. Positioned on the edge of Gastown where Cordova Street bends as the original townsite grid meets the downtown grid, the tower sits between two very strong heritage buildings which can certainly hold their own against the new comer.

In this situation, I think the contrast is a very appropriate response from the architects, with the proposed tower actually highlighting the heritage buildings. Sometimes being too contextual just leads to boring and uninspiring results.

Looking at the other renderings available, I think the relationship between the former CPR station and the new building has been well thought out.

In this case I welcome the Martians…

Lost and Found

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The former Bank of Nova Scotia at 424 West Hastings is an attractive little building. Built in 1904 and designed by the firm of Dalton & Eveleigh this was the bank’s head office until their new office tower was constructed at the corner of Seymour and Hastings in 1910.

At some point the building got a make over and the columns that once graced the facade disappeared from view. What’s interesting is they are still in place, just hiding behind a bunch of bricks. Here’s hoping they’ll be exposed and brought back into view again.

For a full history of the building check out Changing Vancouver.

Lost Urban Objects 2


By 1910, Vancouver had three public restrooms available to those in need (earlier facilities were pretty basic public urinals for men) and while an editorial in the Vancouver World lauded the city for its progress and development, it complained that it lacked the necessary number of public conveniences for a city growing at such “an unparalleled pace.”

It took awhile and many proposals, but by the 1920s the city had a number of locations under consideration for additional comfort stations. However, as soon as the locations were announced protests began. Former mayor L.D. Taylor issued a writ to protest the construction of the Georgia and Howe station, and was joined by complaints from the Law Society and the provincial and federal ministers of public works. The provincial government even threatened legal action to prevent the construction. Their gripe was that a public loo was inappropriate so near an important public building such as a court house.

Protests and complaints also delayed construction on the Hamilton and Hastings location and the federal government once again got involved protesting the proposed post office location. Even the library board and the automobile association felt the need to weigh in on the issue.

Eventually, Council decided to push forward with the Georgia and Howe, Hamilton and Hastings, and Main and Hastings locations, dropping three other contentious locations. Arthur Julius Bird, the city’s building inspector and an architect, got the job of designing the loos. Their above ground presence was confined to elaborate cast iron railings.

The Georgia and Howe location was demolished in the 1960s, while the remaining two were renovated. Main and Hastings was redesigned above ground with a striking modern concrete canopy that soared over the entrances, providing an interesting counterpoint to the rusticated stone facade of the 1903 Carnegie Library.

Sadly, this was demolished in the early 2000s as part of a redo of the space around the Carnegie Centre and replaced with railings and gates that sort of recall the restroom’s original form.

Above: Main and Hastings in the 1980s

Forgotten Urban Objects


In the 1960s Vancouver embarked on a number of civic improvements including its street furniture and one of the items was this forlorn looking object seen here in this 1978 photo.

What is it? It’s a newspaper kiosk for that long lost profession of the corner newspaper vendor. When papers published more than one edition a day the newspaper box we see everywhere today was just too inefficient for distribution. The kiosk was designed to hold papers and provide minimal shelter from the elements for the paper seller. These kiosks with their vendors were once a common site throughout the downtown core. This one was at the corner of Davie and Granville.

No Tunnels, damn…


So nice to see Shelly Fralic’s column in the December 24th edition of the Vancouver Sun (page A15) debunking the silly rumours that surround Gabriola, the Roger’s mansion on Davie Street. It’s surprising what a little bit of research, fact checking and common sense can turn up. And nice to see Brian Rogers interviewed too.

The tunnel myth is one of those zombie myths (thanks Andy) that just never to go away – for example, and this silly one – I hope Shelly’s article helps put the stake through the heart on this one once and for all.

Next up frozen foundations and tipping apartment buildings