3 Unique Buildings in Vancouver

All buildings great and small! From classic design to modern feats of engineering, there is a growing number of interesting buildings in Vancouver for locals and visitors to enjoy. It seems like each year there is a new, taller, more oddly shaped tower being built in the downtown core. And while the majority of these skyscrapers are amazing to admire and wonderful to walk through, there is still a large number of older buildings standing proud in the shadows of their new neighbours. Here are 3 unique buildings in Vancouver.

Library Square – Vancouver Public Library Central Branch

This location is home to a federal office building, several shops and services, and the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library. This nine-story structure is one of the most photographed locations in the city and a favourite for locals, immigrants, international students, and tourists. It’s free for everyone to use and the staff are extremely helpful.

Designed by Moshe Safdie and DA Architects, construction began in 1993 and was completed in 1995. More recently, in 2018, an 8000 square-foot rooftop patio and garden were added and made open to the public in September of the same year.

Two features of this location make it worth a visit.

  1. The Roman-Coliseum-like design on the exterior. This has also made it a popular location for many movies and series.
  2. The internal glass-enclosed area. When you enter the structure, you’ll appreciate the beautiful natural light as well as the stunning reflections since the building was designed with windows at almost every angle including the ceiling.

Canada Place

This building is surrounded by Canada’s busiest harbour and downtown Vancouver. Long before this structure was built, the area was home to industrial sawmills and also a location for major ships to dock bringing new immigrants and trade to the area. However, in the early 1980s the federal government of Canada decided that the port should be developed into the Canada Pavilion in time for the World’s Fair Expo ’86. According to the Canada Place website, construction officially began in 1983 with a visit from Queen Elizabeth and the Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Trudeau, to start the first concrete pour on the current location.

Designed by Zeidler, Roberts Partnership with Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership and Downs Archambault and Partners to look like sails on a ship, the structure is another popular area for photographs. At night, the sails are lit up with seasonal colours, such as red and green during the Christmas season. It’s also used for events such as Canada Day and sometimes New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Sam Kee Building

If you walk through historic Chinatown, you could pass by this structure without knowing its significance. On its own, it doesn’t appear to be much other than a smaller-size building where a person can purchase insurance. But when you look into the history, it’s easy to see why this structure makes our list.

In 1903, the Sam Kee Company purchased the lot and faced a serious challenge before construction began in 1913. In 1912, the city of Vancouver widened Pender Street and took back 24 feet of the land that the Sam Kee Company owned. This left the company with a piece of land that most people would not build on because it was so narrow. However, the Sam Kee Company was not deterred, so they hired architects Brown and Gillam who were able to design a steel structure that fit the lot. So how narrow is the Sam Kee Building?

Wall to wall, the building is between 4’11” and 6’ making it the shallowest commercial building in the world according to Guinness World Records. Be sure to stop by this rarity if you visit Chinatown.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact us. We’re always happy to help.

By Bryan Candy