Vancity Buzz and the Vancouver Heritage Foundation have partnered on a new series – Vintage Vancouver – starting with, appropriately, the West End:


West End


Start here.

And while we’re at it, here’s a site – designKULTUR – with a post I missed in 2010: an eclectic mix of research and comment on west-coast mid-century modern and the work of architect Kenneth Gardner, at a time when the West End was undergoing dramatic change in the post-1956 highrise era:


Ocean Towers


While the piece focuses on Gardner’s modest 1960 highrise on Robson Street, Lagoon Terrace, it also has a couple of references to its predecessor across the street at Chilco and Robson – a site that used to look like this:

 Chilco Towers site - before


And which in 1958 was replaced with Gardner’s design for this:

Chilco Towers - after

Overlooking Lost Lagoon and Stanley Park is ‘Chilco Towers,’ a 9-storey tenant-owned apartment block designed by Vancouver architect, Kenneth Gardner. It includes a rooftop garden (no penthouse), underground parking for 70 cars. All 36 suites face the view and are priced from $17,000 for 1-bedroom to $38,000 for 3-bedroom.

Lots more at this site, including extensive illustrations of Gardner’s home in the Southlands – now a heritage-designated residence – that was unique in Canada: a lift-slab house, where the roof and floor slabs were poured on the ground and jacked into place.  It won the AIBC Honour Award for architecture in 1960.

Gardner residence


More here.


  1. Very interesting piece. I did get a fascinating introduction to early Vancouver architecture in art history (college) but there was no further exploration into that timeline… this is a welcome adjunct.
    One of the things i remember being taught was that the chrome and steel building across from the Hotel Vancouver was the first to employ those materials in this combination in the city, and this came about because the company that commissioned it, a soap firm, wanted to look especially bright and clean.
    Also, the beautiful Marine building was supposed to have been inspired by a dream received by a wealthy eccentric wherein all the buildings in Vancouver were submerged by a tidal wave, save for one building that resembled a mountain (thus the art nouveau snowtips on the top).
    Keep up the good work, i’ll be checking back to see what new gems you’ve posted on the subject…

  2. The second pic is I think a tower called Ocean Tower near Davie & Demnan – it galvanized the “anti-slab” sentiment for Vancouver towers.
    It’s interesting to note the undulating ledges on the tower – a feature that has recently been used to more dramatic effect with balconies in newer condo towers – i.e. one in Chicago called “Aqua” and Surrey’s “Wave”.

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