Links and documents
1963/01/01 to 1965/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Saanich Municipal Hall is a three-storey flat roofed Modernist concrete and glass civic office building, surrounded by elaborately landscaped municipal gardens and fountains, with a wide concrete block terrace at the rear. It is located in the Saanich Core area of Saanich.
The Saanich Municipal Hall is valued as an excellent example of Modern architecture, constructed to symbolize the permanence and distinct identity of Saanich as a progressive urban centre, that was growing at the time from a semi-rural municipality to a more densely populated community. This reinforced concrete structure was designed to create a timeless and authoritative impression, while still presenting an open and welcoming atmosphere to the public. Architecture, interior design and landscaping were considered to be of equal importance in the design of this impressive structure. It was a distinctive and daring design for western Canada at the time, notable for its dynamic structural expression, not usually found in institutional and public architecture.
The Hall is also significant as an important commission by a prominent local architectural firm. In 1963, Wade, Stockdill, Armour and Partners were appointed as architects for the new Municipal Hall, with John W. Armour (1927-1986) in charge of administration and Peter Blewett (1932-1999) responsible for design. Originally formed as a partnership between John Wade and Dexter Stockdill, this firm was one of the most influential in the development of Modern architecture in B.C.
The architectural expression of this structure was influenced by the Brutalist architecture of Swiss architect, Le Corbusier, who used exposed, board-formed reinforced concrete as a plastic medium to define zones of function within a building through sculptural and structural interventions. This influence is reflected in the Saanich Municipal Hall by the stairwells on the centre front and the south end that are placed inside articulated towers. The front tower is a part of the ceremonial entranceway to the centre of the interior public space. Original features include a huge skylight that serves two galleried floors and the ground floor, flooding the main public areas with evenly diffused daylight.
Interior designer Lorne V. Nielson was commissioned to plan the interior spaces, indicating a commitment to creating an important civic structure from the inside out. The main floor was designed as the main public area, with ceilings that are higher than the other floors, creating an inviting atmosphere for the public face of civic functions. A stairway inside the front of the building ascends to a cantilevered deck designed for ceremonial occasions. The concrete interior walls are relieved by the colour and warmth of teak paneling in the council chamber and on balustrades and walls in the public area, and by incised designs in the concrete in public area. Original furnishings include teak and black leather benches.
Philip Tattersfield and Associates designed the landscape to complement the modern influences of the building. Of particular interest is the circular pond and pathway at the front entrance, which repeats the organic form of the ceremonial entrance of the building. At the back entrance is a terrace, overlooking Swan Lake nature park, creating an inviting and welcoming atmosphere for the public.
In July, 1964, George H. Wheaton Limited was hired as the contractor for the project. The new Hall was officially opened on December 1, 1965 by Lieutenant Governor George R. Pearkes. Over time, the Saanich Municipal Hall has been recognized as a very significant local example of Modern architecture, and the municipality has demonstrated a commitment to its protection through heritage designation.
Source: Heritage Planning Files, District of Saanich
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Saanich Municipal Hall include its:
- prominent location along a major highway
- massive irregular form, dominant scale and asymmetrical massing
- the use of exposed, board-formed reinforced concrete throughout
- flat roof
- bands of clerestory aluminum sash windows that run the full length of the front and rear walls
- two sculptural towers housing interior stairwells
- concrete interior walls, incised with designs in the public areas
- additional interior features dating to the time of construction, including: terrazzo floors; central light well with skylight; teak paneling in council chambers; and teak handrails throughout public areas
- well-maintained and lush landscape setting with mature plantings, shrubs, hedges and water feature
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.967
Theme - Category and Type
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
- Governing Canada
- Politics and Political Processes
Function - Category and Type
- Town or City Hall
Architect / Designer
Wade, Stockdill, Armour and Partners
George H. Wheaton Ltd.
Location of Supporting Documentation
Heritage Planning Files, District of Saanich
Cross-Reference to Collection