BC Electric/Hydro Building

Mid-century office buildings

Designed by architects Ron Thom & Ned Pratt (1955-1957) to house the B.C. Electric Company – later to be merged with BC Hydro – this 23-story tower is a classic example of the International Style and, at the time, was said to be the tallest building in the British Commonwealth.

Although tall – for Vancouver in the 1950s! – the building’s footprint is long and narrow, a result of B.C. Electric’s president, Dal Grauer, insisting that every employee working in the building be within fifteen feet of a window.

Grauer also appreciated West Coast art, so prominent local artist BC Binning was brought aboard to create the mosaic tile diamond mural – drawing from the shape of the overall structure and his color scheme from the Dal Grauer Substation next door – which can be seen at the base of the building’s perimeter.

In the 1990s, after B.C. Hydro relocated their offices several blocks north, the building was converted into condominiums and is now called The Electra, which has earned heritage status and is listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register.

A number of the converted condos are available as vacation rentals on sites such as airbnb and VRBO for modernists looking for a central base from which to explore the city.

Bonus Building: Just east and across the street from The Electra is Nelson Square, a delightful early 1970s office building and retail plaza that feels like it’s been lifted straight out of a mid-century architect’s rendering (see photos above). It’s located at the corner of Nelson & Hornby Streets where The Electra also intersects with the Brutalist Law Courts building (Arthur Erickson, 1973).

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