Dal Grauer Substation

Mid-century modern buildings

Wanting to create a functional space that would house a downtown electrical substation as well as double as public art, BC Electric’s chief in the early 1950s, Edward “Dal” Grauer, commissioned architect Ned Pratt and artist BC Binning to make it so.

The result was a stunning 3-story rectangular concrete box which boasted a street-front facade of steel, mosaic tiles and wall-to-wall glass through which was revealed modernist staircases and electrical equipment. Bright colors were added and it was said to have resembled a larger-than-life Mondrian painting when viewed from the street at that time (refer to the 1954 photo, above).

Unfortunately, 30 years later, a transformer explosion resulted in the need to replace the structure’s glass curtain wall with plexiglass, a material which, over time, dulled the transparent effect of the building’s frontage making it look shabby and run down.

The plexiglass was replaced in 2012 and large rotating photographic art installations were added in 2015, obscuring much of the structure’s see-through effect. Still, you get a good feel for what the building must have been like back in the day.

The Dal Grauer Substation is listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places  as well as on Vancouver’s own Heritage Register.

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