MacMillan Bloedel Building
1075 West Georgia Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6E, Canada
MacMillan Bloedel Building
Links and documents
1968/01/01 to 1969/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The MacMillan Bloedel Building is a twenty-seven storey cast-in-place concrete tower with offset halves, tapered walls, and deeply recessed windows. Located in downtown Vancouver, it is set on a plaza constructed several feet below street level, and is contained by planters and reflecting pools.
The heritage value of the MacMillan Bloedel Building lies primarily in its construction techniques, its striking aesthetics employing reinforced concrete as the dominant finish material inside and out, and its cultural associations, particularly with architect Arthur Erickson as well as the forestry giant MacMillan Bloedel.
Constructed in 1968-69, this landmark building is evidence of the continued expansion of Vancouver's central business district westward along Georgia Street during the corporate building boom of the late 1960s and early 1970s, fueled by the transfer of corporate headquarters to Vancouver.
Winner of the Massey Medal for Architecture in 1970, the building was designed by Vancouver's pre-eminent architect Arthur Erickson, along with Geoff Massey and in collaboration with Francis Donaldson of the development firm Grosvenor Laing. The building is also significant for its association with Otto Safir, a European post-World War II émigré, who collaborated in the conception of the innovative structure (a vertical cantilever, like a tree). The design commission for this large commercial piece was culturally significant as a breakthrough for forward-thinking Modernist designers working outside large commercial architectural firms.
Characteristic of Modernist design, the building is a display of masterful and conscious artistic control of constituent elements, in particular its unique integration of structure, mechanics, and innovative indirect lighting, which lend a sense of stability to the coffer-ceilinged interiors. The building is also significant for its revelation of the physical and visual properties of the principal building material, reinforced concrete. The building houses works of important Canadian art and is notable for its clutter-free organization and furnishings by the architect. The plaza is an important idiosyncratic response to the typical corporate tower plaza found elsewhere.
The MacMillan Bloedel Building suggests the tapering verticality of the west coast rain forest, as reflected by the paintings of Emily Carr, which were a source of inspiration to Erickson. Erickson was also influenced by the Japanese love for surfaces that express the nature of material. The building and its plaza were conceived as a continuous whole, with concrete floor and wall finishes on both exterior and interior. The MacMillan Bloedel Building is a prime example of the unique blending of Modernist and Far-eastern aesthetics.
Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
The character-defining elements of the MacMillan Bloedel Building include:
Siting, Context and Landscape
- Plaza and lobby below and removed from Georgia Street, with reflecting pools and a corner planter
- Iconic simplicity of the unadorned facades
- Tower with offset halves joined at the core
- North and south facades constructed of tapering concrete grid with glazed void, to form vertical cantilevers
- Cast-in-place concrete construction in a variety of finishes: exposed aggregate paving, sandblasted concrete walls, and bush-hammered concrete relief panels both inside and outside the building
- Windows consisting of seven-foot square panes of glass
- Indirectly-lit coffered ceilings and concrete walls in the interiors
- Innovative storage in the interior
- Solid bush-hammered concrete parking garage walls
- Lobby wall facing Georgia Street fitted with major art piece, now Jack Shadbolt's 'Primavera'
- Parking garage walls overgrown with rich mix of vines
- Pinus nigra in the southwest planter
- Pools at base of building and beneath southwest planter
City of Vancouver
Vancouver Charter, s.582
Community Heritage Register
Theme - Category and Type
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
Function - Category and Type
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Office or Office Building
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
Cross-Reference to Collection