Dal Grauer Substation
944 Burrard Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6Z, Canada
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Located mid-block on Burrard Street, the Dal Grauer Substation is a three-storey, rectangular concrete building with an arresting fully-glazed front facade divided into a grid directly facing the street.
The Dal Grauer Substation is important for its historical, symbolic, technological and aesthetic values, particularly its Modernist treatment, which integrated an industrial installation into the otherwise business and institutional context of Burrard Street.
Completed in 1954, the Substation, serving the expanding power needs of the burgeoning post-war business district, is a valuable physical record of that expansion. Its location, on one of the most prominent streets in the downtown, proclaims the increase in provincial hydroelectric power production of the day. Its bright colouring and grid design, deliberately intended to resemble paintings by the de Stijl movement's Piet Mondrian, had a city-wide impact.
The Substation represents one branch of Modernist design in which buildings were conceived of as temples. To this end, the Substation glorifies electrical power. Its colourful interior, particularly dramatic at night, and the use of mosaic glass tiles as an exterior facing in shades of blue, grey, mauve, black and green, all proclaim a new Modernist interpretation of technology, which sought to inspire.
In keeping with its industrial context, the Dal Grauer Substation's spare, direct, open structural design make it an excellent example of a Modernist building. Its form contributes to the overall integrity of the streetscape, yet it stands apart as unique. A collaboration between the then-chair of the BC Hydro and Power Authority, Dal Grauer, the forward-thinking architect Ned Pratt, and the influential local artist and Modernist evangelist B.C. Binning, the building is an outstanding example of the Modernist ideal of combining technology, industry, and the arts into a fruitful whole in service for the improvement of society.
Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
The character-defining elements of the Dal Grauer Substation include:
Siting, Context and Landscape
- Location on one of the downtown's main streets
- Physical connection to, and compatible detailing with, the later adjacent BC Hydro building
- Front facade with minimal setback, glazing down to street level, and no means of access from Burrard Street
- Three-storey height and modest scale
- Functional, economic structure of concrete
- Openness of the window wall to the street
- Exposure of internal industrial workings
- Symmetrically composed Burrard Street facade
- Minimal concrete structure with only minimal embellishment
- Interior original colour scheme
- Exposed stairs framing the industrial workings
- Protruding bay on the front facade with subtle relief detailing
City of Vancouver
Vancouver Charter, s.582
Community Heritage Register
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Technology and Engineering
Function - Category and Type
- Power Generation Facility
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
Cross-Reference to Collection