The first of September was a glorious blue-sky day in Vancouver. So we grabbed our new camera (a Canon SX210) and took a spin in the car with the sunroof down.

I like these photographs because they’re totally candid, unposed, quicksnap glimpses of our built environment taken while driving around with the sunroof down at about 30 km/h.

These shots would be next to impossible to shoot on foot (without being run over).

I especially like how the MacMillan Bloedel Building shots turned out; I think these are my best ever of Arthur Erickson’s “Doric” building. That vibrant blue sky has not been retouched.

Here’s the deets on the buildings that caught my eye as we whizzed along West Georgia Street, across the Georgia Street Viaduct and along Prior and Venables, turning right at Clark Drive, clicking away at Ken Lum’s Memorial to East Vancouver and turning west on 12th Avenue.

We went along West 12th, past the city’s iconic City Hall, down newly redone Cambie Street and its emergent street scene, across the Cambie Street Bridge, looking at the billion-dollar Olympic Village boondoggle and the retrofitting of a retractable roof onto BC Place by the same firm that did the Commerzbank-Arena in Frankfurt.

The bridge shot us up one-way Smithe Street past »The Beasley« — “The last new Yaletown address” — named as a tribute to one of the biggest boosters of Vancouverism, former Director of City Planning, Larry Beasley. I wonder if he’s still in Dubai, Vancouverizing the desert.

We then drove past the redevelopment of the former Capitol 6 cinema into a major condo on the revitalized Granville Street strip, under the overpass at Arthur Erickson’s landmark Robson Square, and back to the West End and its streets lined with fully mature trees — a green oasis and the most densely populated couple of square kilometers in Canada.

When we crossed over from Downtown Vancouver to the West End @ Thurlow Street we caught the backside of Vancouver’s current height record holder (62 stories/201 metres), James Cheng’s Living Shangri-La. Indeed.

Click the screenshot for map:



Rhone and Iredale, Peter Cardew project designer — Crown Life Place, 1976-1977 — 1500 West Georgia Street

Always near the top of Vancouver’s A List

B • Bill Rhone and Rand Iredale, with Bogue and Babicki, engineers — Westcoast Transmission Building, 1968-1969 — 1333 West Georgia Street

[conversion to condos by Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership — The Qube, 2006| — 1383 West Georgia Street

Vancouver’s most sublime tower

C • James KM Cheng Architects Inc. — Residences on Georgia, 1998 — 1200 + 1288 West Georgia Street

A classy affair and winner of a Governor General Award for Architecture, 1998

D • Arthur Erickson + Geoff Massey — The MacMillan Bloedel Building, 1965-1968 — 1075 West Georgia Street

Still the classiest building on this tour

E • James Cheng — Living Shangri-La, 2008 — 1128 West Georgia Street

Cheng did Vancouver right with this, the city’s current tallest building

F • Paul Merrick — Cathedral Place, 1991 — 925 West Georgia Street

Drop the faux Hotel Vancouver châpeau and this would be a truly outstanding building

G • Archibald and Schofield — Hotel Vancouver, 1939 — 900 West Georgia Street

Still a classy affair — the original grande dame

H • Gruen Associates, Caesar Pelli, project designer — TD Tower, Pacific Centre, 1971 — 700 West Georgia Street

This was the first building designed by Cesar Pelli after joining the Gruen firm

I • Moshe Safdie — VPL Library Square, 1995 — 350 West Georgia Street

The wrong form for a library designed at the tail end of the post-modern era

J • Gerkan, Marg + Partner Max Bögl — BC Place Stadium Re: Construction, 2010- — 777 Pacific Boulevard [original architects: PBK Architects, 1983]

Deflation of the mushroom: 4 May 2010

K • City of Vancouver — Georgia Viaduct, 1972

Save the Viaducts!

L • Trees — Prior + Union, East Van

M • Ken Lum — Monument to East Vancouver, 2009

Best seen at night whilst riding eastbound on the SkyTrain

N • »Uptown« by Concord Pacific

If Mount Pleasant is the new uptown, what is the new midtown?

O • Acton Ostry Architects — Stella, 2009, 2770 Sophia Street

This building makes a Honda dealership look sexy

P • Townley & Matheson, City Hall, 1936, 543 West 12th Avenue

Why do some many civic buildings from the ’30s look so totalitarian?

Q • Various architects — Olympic Village, 2010 + North False Creek Condos

The Olympic Village: Doesn’t look like a billion bucks to me

North False Creek Condos: »City of Glass«

J • Gerkan, Marg + Partner Max Bögl — BC Place Stadium Re: Construction

Thank god the mushroom has gone — the new roof looks like a winner

R • »The Beasley« — A condo named in honour of Vancouver’s former Director of Planning, Larry Beasley.

Gomberoff Bell Lyon — The Beasley, 2010, 888 Homer Street

»It’s the last new Yaletown address«

S • Anonymous — Just another mediocre Downtown South development

Yaletown and Downtown South: good planning; bad buildings

T • Howard Bingham Architects — Capitol Residences, 2010, 833 Seymour Street

Bye bye cinemas; hello condos!

U • Arthur Erickson — Robson Square, 1975

Arthur gave Vancouver its one downtown park of significance and so much is hidden like this landscaped overpass

V • Peter Busby — One Wall Centre, 2001, 1088 Burrard Street

Two-tone glass aside, this is a great building a former height record holder before Living Shangri-La came along and usurped things

W • Stantec Architecture Ltd. in collaboration with Endall Elliot — Patina Condos/New YMCA, 2010, 1028  Barclay Street

An Oscar Niemeyer curve on one corner of this hulking mess can’t save this building

E • James Cheng — Living Shangri-La, 2008

X • Trees — Smithe @ Thurlow, West End

Photos > Michael Francis McCarthy, designKULTUR on Flickr