Vancouver - The Death of Good Taste & EleganceSaturday, July 28, 2018
|July 28 2018|
For years I played the game in my head of writing up a guest list for a reception for a Queen Elizabeth visit to Vancouver. First on that list was architect Arthur Erickson.
For years I especially enjoyed taking portraits of Vancouver architects for magazines. I found that they were elegantly well dressed, had manners and good taste plus they were well-versed in almost any topic.
Another of my favourite architects was Ned Pratt whom I photographed many times. I regret I never asked him the question, “What lad did you send to our former Modernist style Vancouver Public Library on Robson and Burrard to look up Piet Mondrian?”
The fact is that the lad came back with the goods and that produced in 1954 the Dal Grauer Substation which is right next to the Electra Bulding (previously called the BC Electric and then later the BC Hydro Building) also designed by Pratt and finished in 1957.
Charles Edward "Ned" Pratt FRAIC (15 July 1911 – 24 February 1996) was an American-Canadian oarsman and architect. Pratt competed in the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles where he won a bronze medal in double sculls. In 1939 he joined the Vancouver architectural firm Sharp and Thompson, where he remained for the duration of his career. During his career he played an important role in bringing modern architecture to the Canadian west coast.
For many years, for those who noticed, the substation was a living Mondrian monument with a lot more style than the many other buildings around the world (look it up, I did) that mimic the style. In fact the background of Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC Show is a Mondrian!
|Dal Grauer Substation - Photograph Art Jones|
Sometime in the early 90s the city forgot the building and placed an opaque (it has yellowed with age) plastic shield which would protect pedestrians on Burrard from an electric explosion.
The substation is now in awful shape, grass and weeds grow on the sidewalk and most in Vancouver would never suspect of the building’s former elegance.
To make it all worse it seems that a yearly Vancouver photographic exhibition and festival has placed something in front that defies the former elegance of the building and its architect.
I have written about all this in how our city abandons the designs of good architects from the past who are no longer with us. Paul Merrick’s CBC on Hamilton won a Governor General’s Award. Ugly, neither here nor there quasi tall buildings now hide the building. That most maligned Eaton’s building designed by Cesar Pelli is now a (not even ugly) bland headquarters for Nordtstrom.
Vancouver is a city in which elegance and style is firmly in its past.