4600 Cambie Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V5Y, Canada
Bloedel Floral Conservatory
Links and documents
1967/01/01 to 1969/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Situated at the top of Little Mountain in Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Park, the Bloedel Conservatory is a dome-shaped building, with a roof composed of triangular plexiglass bubbles on a concrete foundation ring. The building contains lush tropical plants and birds, and is surrounded by a large open plaza.
The Bloedel Conservatory is significant for its historical, symbolic, cultural, technological and social values, particularly for its use of new technologies and building methods to create both a futuristic design and an exotic ecological environment.
Befitting a forward-looking 1967 Canadian Centennial project for the City of Vancouver, the Bloedel Conservatory is symbolically significant for its avant-garde geodesic structure, an iconic construction made popular that same year by Buckminster Fuller's Expo '67 dome in Montreal. While futuristic in imagery, its siting and civic tenure are important as fulfilments of the ideal of linking City Hall with the civic amenity of Queen Elizabeth Park.
The Conservatory, housing tropical plants and birds, is a cultural extension of the early horticultural tradition in the city. Vancouver parks, including Queen Elizabeth Park, had always been time-honoured depositories for exotic plant and animal life displayed for the entertainment and education of the citizenry. The open skeletal structure of the building recalls the revolutionary metal and glass exposition structures of the 18th and 19th centuries and their function as horticultural showcases.
The Conservatory is an example of the Modernist interest in new building technologies, in this case, the geodesic form and moulded plexiglass glazing, which enabled the construction of the large, light-filled enclosure. The building also exemplifies the use of contemporary materials and finishes typical for the time.
This building is named after lumberman Prentice Bloedel, whose patronage enabled its construction. This spirit of philanthropy was widespread during the 1960s, when resource extraction industries were undergoing a post-war expansion and business founders wished to have their names associated with the cultural development of the city.
Constructed on top of an abandoned basalt quarry and adjacent to concrete water reservoirs, the Bloedel Conservatory and Queen Elizabeth Park are important early examples of landscape rehabilitation, which created open space and amenities for public use. An integral part of the cultural experience was the surrounding plaza, originally designed to transform the top surface of a utilitarian reservoir into a sculpted landscape that offered striking views over the city.
Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
The character-defining elements of the Bloedel Conservatory include:
Siting, Context and Landscape
- Location at the top of Little Mountain in Queen Elizabeth Park
- Civic institutional use
- The name, inscribed over the entrance, associated via the Bloedel Foundation with the funder, Prentice Bloedel
- Geodesic dome construction with plexiglass glazing
- Interior arrangements, engineering and plantings designed to house a tropical conservatory
- Ring-shaped foundation
- Use of exposed aggregate concrete for the dome base and on the plaza
- Large open plaza surrounding the building and Henry Moore's "Knife Edge" sculpture
City of Vancouver
Vancouver Charter, s.582
Community Heritage Register
Theme - Category and Type
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Learning and the Arts
Function - Category and Type
- Aquarium, Planetarium or Zoo
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
Cross-Reference to Collection