5 Iconic Buildings in Downtown Vancouver

Although Vancouver is a fairly young city, its skyline is evolves every day. Look a little closer and you’ll find this concrete jungle tells the city’s tale through architecture in its façades, shapes, details and landscapes - some of the world’s most outstanding architecture happen to live here. We’ve taken a look at five of Vancouver’s most iconic buildings, each one carrying a rich history of its own.

Address: 838 West Hastings Street, Vancouver,
BC Developer: Westbank
Completed: 2009

Woodward’s is one of Vancouver’s most highly recognized redevelopments. The original building was built in 1903 as Woodward’s posh department store with a landmark “W” on the top of the building. What once was the hub of Vancouver’s shopping district, soon became Vancouver’s troubled Downtown Eastside, and the Woodward’s closed its doors in 1993. “Be bold or move to suburbia,” were the words of Vancouver real estate's Bob Rennie. With downtown eastside issues prevalent, the gentrification of the neighbourhood was one that would create a major shift in the housing market. Woodward’s incorporated affordable housing at premium condominium prices in the core of the downtown eastside - and had the public eye in disbelief. Since then, this area has seen major improvements and artifacts of the storied department store are seen through throughout the building, including the “W” neon sign which has been and remains to be a Vancouver landmark for over a decade.

Wing Sang
Address: 51 East Pender Street
Renovation Completed: 2009

Located at 51 East Pender Street, the Wing Sang is Chinatown’s oldest building. Built in 1889 by Yip Sang, a prominent Chinese-Canadian businessman, it housed both his business and his large family. At that time, Chinese-Canadians living in Vancouver were to obey a curfew – that meant the construction of the Wing Sang building included narrow passages residents used in secret after dark. What’s even more mysterious about the Wing Sang building is that it has an odd door facing the street – strangely enough on the second floor.  The existence of the second floor door remains unexplained. The Wing Sang building now houses the rennie Museum containing works from the rennie Collection, one of the largest collections of contemporary art in Canada. What was once used as a schoolroom by Yip Sang is now a boardroom for rennie – its lime green walls and original chalkboards can still be seen today, the latter covered in glass to protect chalk writing from decades ago. Next time you’re passing by the Wing Sang building, be sure to look for its brick façade, lime green walls, and second floor door.

Marine Building & MNP Tower
Address: 355 Burrard St & 1021 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC
Completed: 2015
Developer: Oxford Properties

Located in Vancouver’s Financial District in Coal Harbour, the Marine Building is known around the world for its art deco details and was once the tallest building in the British Empire. It once housed an observation deck, which shut down during the Great Depression when a 25 cent entry fee became unaffordable for most. Many of the Marine Building’s intricate nautical details can still be seen: big brass entry doors, zodiac signs adorning the floors, and sea snails, crabs, turtles, and sea-horses embellishing the walls – nowadays budget and profits often trump details such as these. Today, the Marine Building sets the stage for the MNP tower, a prestigious office tower shaped like a glass talon. Next time you’re in the Marine Building - amongst the bustle of financial district regulars on the hunt for their next caffeine fix – take a moment to admire the intricate ceiling details that make up little pieces of Vancouver’s history.

Jameson House
Address: 838 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC
Developer: Bosa Properties
Completed: 2011

The juxtaposition of the ultra-modern Jameson House with dramatic curved windows and balconies, hovering over the heritage façade of the Royal Financial Building and Ceperly Rounsfell Building, tells a story of the architecture that once lined the streets of West Hastings. The Royal Financial Building was designed by J.C. Day, an architect renowned for residential architecture. The design of this building was considered to be among his best work. The Royal Financial Building housed the B.C. and Yukon Chamber of Mines for nearly 45 years – historically significant in being a major driver in the province’s economy and one of its earliest and major employers. Its neighbour, the Ceperly Rounsfell Building, is a rare example of the Georgian Revival style commissioned by Sharp and Thompson – well known for designs seen throughout the Vancouver Club. This building housed Ceperley, Rounsfell and Co., who became one of the province's largest real estate and insurance firms. Built in 2011, Jameson House was designed by UK based architecture firm, Foster + Partners, and is recognized as one of the city’s most loved buildings, winning the Urban Development Institute’s People’s Choice Award in 2014. Twenty-six storeys of ultra-modern homes sit atop state-of-the-art offices, fitting in seamlessly with neighbours at the Vancouver Club. What’s underneath Jameson House is equally impressive. A fully automated mechanical valet system whisks cars away and allows more cars to fit in a smaller space than a traditional parkade – a space saver in Vancouver’s bustling downtown core.

Hotel Georgia & The Residences at Hotel Georgia
Address: 801 West Georgia Street & 667 Howe St, Vancouver, BC
Developer: Delta Group
Completed: 2012

Built in 1926 to Georgian Revival style, Hotel Georgia is located on an iconic corner on West Georgia and Howe Street. One of three protected heritage buildings in its vicinity – along with the Hotel Vancouver – it’s one of the few places downtown that you’ll find such a vast open space. Nearly a century later, Hotel Georgia continues to be a leader in hospitality. The tower boasts twenties grandeur combined with contemporary design and operates as one of the most prominent hotels worldwide. In 2012, The Private Residences at Hotel Georgia introduced a new luxury address, accompanied by stunning architecture and is Vancouver’s second tallest tower at 48 storeys. This corner has provided hospitality for people from across the world for over 100 years, including notable guests like Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and Queen Elizabeth II.

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