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Travel sketch: Vancouver, Canada

Unlikely siblings, Vancouver

Seeing as Canada Day is coming up, I felt it was time to publish something just recently rediscovered in a half-forgotten sketchbook.

Drawn on the right is the third incarnation of the Hotel Vancouver, built from 1929-39. 17 storeys high, the monumental hotel was inspired by French Renaissance châteaux with touches of the Scottish baronial. This quintessentially Canadian style was popular during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, exemplified in the grand railway hotels built by rival companies Canadian Pacific (CP) and Canadian National (CN). Canadian Pacific landmarks include Toronto’s Royal York, Quebec’s Château Frontenac, Victoria’s Empress Hotel and a few rural resorts within national parks, most notably the Banff Springs Hotel. I must also point out that my original annotation was incorrect – alongside Ottawa’s Château Laurier and six other properties, the Hotel Vancouver was built by CN but later purchased in 1988 by its main competitor.

The more modern building on the left – whose shape is not quite as bulky as the sketch implies – is Cathedral Place, a 23-storey office tower that pays homage to the past while respecting its immediate neighbours. Adopting the copper roof of the Hotel Vancouver, it replaced a respectable art deco landmark, the Georgia Medical-Dental Building, demolished in 1989 following an intense – albeit unsuccessful – campaign to save it. Although visibly postmodern, Cathedral Place has kept the theme of its predecessor, its corners bristling with gargoyles and art deco statues. The tower has even spawned a copy in Hong Kong, this time without the château-style roof. Turns out a certain Hong Kong media mogul (Sir Run Run Shaw) had a hand in developing the original…

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. I love these old CN hotels and been lucky enough to stay at a few! Happy Canada Day (almost!)

    June 30, 2013
    • They are such beautiful works of architecture, aren’t they? I stayed at the Chateau Montebello many years back but my recollections of it are rather sketchy. However, I remember being amazed by the Banff Springs and Chateau Lake Louise – not just with their natural setting but also the lovely interiors. Happy Canada Day to you too!

      June 30, 2013
  2. Another awesome sketch of yours James! Speaking of Canadian architecture, I remember how amazed I was when I first saw the pictures of Château Frontenac. That and a few other pictures drew my attention to Canada when I was in high school and reading your old posts on the country only made me want to go there even more.

    June 30, 2013
    • Thank you, Bama! I would love to return to Montréal and Québec City someday – you would certainly love the historical feel of both those cities. I’ve long dreamed of traversing the entire country by rail from West to East… perhaps we should make that one of our future joint trips!

      June 30, 2013
  3. Reblogged this on lifeinpebbles and commented:
    A great post on a hotel icon

    July 1, 2013
    • Thanks for the reblog. 🙂

      July 2, 2013
  4. Hi James, did you really make that sketch? That’s pretty impressive. What an awesome thing to do than just taking photos. I love so many things in Vancouver, including architectures. Thanks for the history bits of these buildings.

    July 2, 2013
    • I did Marisol, back in the day when I was still a budding architecture student. Vancouver is such a gorgeous place – it’s not hard to see why it consistently ranks among one of the world’s best cities to live in!

      July 2, 2013
  5. An impressive sketch James. Have never been to Canada. A rail journey across the country is high on my list too 🙂

    July 8, 2013
    • Thanks, Madhu! When I get around to the Great Canadian Rail Trip it will have to be during the autumn, to catch the changing colours at their best. 🙂

      July 9, 2013
  6. JoV #

    You can sketch! Impressive. Your talents know no boundary!

    July 12, 2013
  7. I can’t believe that you sketched these! Please author a picture book about your travels 🙂
    Any plans to go back to the Vancouver BC region soon? If you aaaare, let me know, I’ll be a little south of there 🙂

    August 1, 2013
    • Hah, this was when I was still a budding architecture student…
      I’d love to return to Vancouver someday, ahead of a trans-Canada rail trip. And when I do I’ll definitely make the hop south to Seattle, it’s been ages since I last went! We can have some joint foodie adventures when that happens. 😉

      August 1, 2013
      • Wow, that would be a really cool trip. I need to see more of Canada! People keep telling me that I’d like Montreal. I need to go see it myself.

        Haha yes! You know how much I ❤ foodie adventures 🙂

        August 1, 2013

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