Our Vancouver Heritage Foundation‘s Historic Walking Tour of Hastings West continued down Hastings Street to Seymour Street. We stopped at Price Waterhouse Centre, which is now officially known as Grant Thornton Place.
Maurice invited us to think back to the 1970’s and what this building must have felt like going up on Hastings Street. A lot of the buildings we’ve seen thus far are pre-WWII and built in classic, revival, Edwardian, or art deco styles. If you know the Price Waterhouse Cooper building, it’s like a giant upside down glass bowl just of the corner of Seymour and Hastings. It’s completely modern, maybe even post-modern.
Maurice took a quick poll by the raising of hands. He asked who likes this building. A few hands went up. Then he asked who doesn’t like this building. About 20 hands went up. Then he asked who doesn’t really have an opinion one way or the other. My hand with a couple others went up. So obviously this is a historic and heritage walk. Most of the people will not like the postmodern style. I can’t say I’m a big fan either. However, if you think of the context of when this building was finished, it would have been very different from most of the buildings in this stretch and would have caused a stir.
On the other side of Seymour is another postmodern, this time brutalist, building in the form of Harbour Centre. Harbour Centre is a Vancouver icon. We tout it as a tower, but it’s a really short one by world standards. However, the Vancouver Lookout atop Harbour Centre does offer great views of the city.
I’ve visited Harbour Centre on many occasions. As an ESL teacher, I took my conversation classes on a field trip there. The Vancouver Lookout has prepared lesson plans for teachers who’d like to take students up for a 360 view of the city. The other times I’ve been here have been for free public lectures at Simon Fraser University’s City Program. I love that SFU took over the bottom part of Harbour Centre for their downtown campus. It’s a great use of the space there and it’s easy to get here by transit.
Across from Harbour Centre on the south side of Hastings is the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue. This building started life as a branch of the Toronto-Dominion Bank. TD stopped using the building in 1984, after which the building was left vacant. The developer who eventually purchased the building was planning to replace it with a hotel. However, SFU imagined a different use for the building. The building was donated to SFU and the building was restored on the outside and totally remade on the inside.
The Wosk Centre for Dialogue hosted the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform in 2004 when 2 citizens from each riding in British Columbia was picked to help choose what electoral system we could have to replace the current system. Maurice says it’s a beautiful meeting room inside. It feels almost like a mini UN congress on the inside. I’m just waiting for an interesting event at the Wosk Centre and I’ll likely pounce on it and have a chance to sit in there.