Natural space and architecture combine in the Little Mountain neighborhood of Vancouver, home to Queen Elizabeth Park, the Bloedel Conservatory and other examples par excellance of midcentury architecture. Ken MacIntyre, Vancouver local and architourist guide, tell us more!
Located at Queen Elizabeth Park, the Bloedel Conservatory’s triodetic dome consists of over 1,400 acrylic bubbles and an aluminum frame supported by a Brutalist concrete perimeter; all very futuristic when it opened to the public in 1969.
Its designers, Underwood, McKinley, Cameron, Wilson and Smith, and structural engineers, Thorson & Thorson, were tasked by the Vancouver Parks Board to develop the site in order to help celebrate Canada’s 1967 Centennial while thematically conveying man’s connection to nature.
Through the landscaping of the conservatory’s adjoining modernist plaza which features surging fountains and an eye-catching Henry Moore sculpture (Knife Edge Two Piece, 1962-65), they’ve done just that—and despite the plaza’s makeover in 2006 which softened its modernist appeal, we highly recommend a visit not only to the Conservatory but also to beautiful Queen Elizabeth Park; a former quarry which was transformed by Parks Board Deputy Superintendent Bill Livingstone during the 1950s.
The Bloedel Conservatory, which hosts over 500 tropical plant species and dozens of exotic birds, was funded by timber magnate and philanthropist Prentice Bloedel and received the Vincent Massey Award for Architectural Excellence in 1971 as well as earning a spot on the Canadian Register of Historic Places and Vancouver’s own Heritage Register.
The park’s surrounding neighborhood of Little Mountain once flourished with midcentury split levels and ranchers but encroaching redevelopment of the area has seen many of these gems razed in favor of high density condominium blocks.
There are still a few treasures nearby if you feel like wandering. One such structure stands right across from the Conservatory’s West 33rd Avenue entrance, on Cambie Street; the Holy Name Church. Designed by Toby & Russell Architects in 1960, it boasts a unique exterior adorned with modernist religious iconography by artist George Norris, as well as beautiful floor-to-ceiling stained glass windows and a unique concrete folded plate roof.
Ken MacIntyre is the author of the acclaimed book Reel Vancouver: An Insider’s Guide to Hollywood North, which was recommended by Lonely Planet in 2012 as the “definitive guide to screen culture in the city.” For more photos and stories of modernist destinations, check out Modtraveler.net or following Ken on Instagram @modtraveler.