Vancouver’s City Hall is considered to be one of the city’s most beautiful art deco buildings. Construction began in 1935 partly as a make-work project during the depression. In the end, Vancouver’s City Hall cost $1 million to build and took 330 days to complete. The building was officially opened as Vancouver’s new City Hall in 1936.
The art deco aesthetic draws its influences from ancient Babylon, Assyrian, and Islamic art. In the 1920’s many of these ancient cultures were being discovered and explored artistically by the Western World. Between World War I and World War II (1918 – 1939) the art deco style took on a jazz-age design and architectural quality most notably in Paris. Vancouver’s art deco themed City Hall embraces the design aesthetic that was popular in Paris and other European cities at that time. Perhaps its most iconic features are the neon lights that illuminate the clock hands on its tallest tower.
Historians attribute the building of Vancouver’s City Hall to then-Mayor Gerald “Gerry” McGeer. McGeer was a renowned orator who called upon his wealthy contacts in Vancouver to put up money to finance the building of a new city hall building.
Where to Build City Hall
Several sites were evaluated for the building of Vancouver’s new City Hall including Victory Square and Strathcona Park. The decision to build the new City Hall on West 12th Avenue is of some debate. Some believe the Mount Pleasant site was chosen because of the hillside geography that would allow it to be seen for miles around. Yet, others think the decision to build the new City Hall away from Vancouver’s downtown would make it harder for protests and strikers to target the building.
It was a remarkable feat to have Vancouver’s new City Hall built in less than a year (330 days) and for the low price of $1 million dollars. Forty years after Vancouver’s New City Hall was opened in 1936, it was designated a heritage building in 1976.
Under today’s management of City Hall, it would take up to six years to get a building permit approved, let alone get the building built. If you, like me, believe Vancouverites deserve a more efficient, respectful government, vote out the current leadership at City Hall. It would be good to see more iconic buildings built in Vancouver, both on time and on budget. But, who you elect into the mayor’s job and city council roles really matters. Don’t settle for lame-duck administrations that prevent good things from happening in your city.
Elaine Allan BA, MBA