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Queen Elizabeth Theatre

688 Hamilton Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6B, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1996/08/27

Exterior view of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre; City of Vancouver, 2006
Entrance to the Theatre
Exterior view of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre; City of Vancouver, 2006
Entrance to the Playhouse
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Other Name(s)

Queen Elizabeth Theatre
Queen Elizabeth Theatre and Playhouse
QE Theatre
Queen Elizabeth Theatre and Vancouver Playhouse

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1957/01/01 to 1959/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2008/02/26

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Queen Elizabeth Theatre complex consists of the Theatre and Playhouse back-to-back in the main block, and a low restaurant wing. The building is set back from Georgia Street across a large plaza.

Heritage Value

The heritage value of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre lies in its historical, cultural and social values, as exhibited by its importance as an early Modernist theatre complex and its landmark status in the city.

Owned by the City of Vancouver, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre is representative of a period in the city's history when Vancouver asserted its role as the cultural centre for the region. An international competition was held for its design, indicating the city's ambition to be on the world's cultural map.

Constructed from 1957 to 1959 (Theatre) and 1962 (Playhouse), the complex is associated with a winning design team, namely, the Montreal-based consortium that later became ARCOP (Architects in Co-partnership). This organization was a Modernist interdisciplinary group that conceived of civic building programs as urban planning initiatives. Originally intended to be part of multi-block civic centre complex with a land bridge to a proposed convention hall, the Theatre reflects the Modernist philosophy of placing cultural life at the center of the civic urban fabric.

Typical of the International Modernist style which emerged in Canada in the 1950s, the theatre complex features a clear expression of its function and structure in the obviously different auditoria and lobby areas. It has a glass curtain wall which provides interior views, linking inside to outside, and it incorporates contemporary exterior finishes with limited embellishment. The vehicular lane outside the theatre entrances indicates the emerging central role of the automobile in an essentially suburban city. The plaza with its fountain is typical of civic spaces created in this era.

Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre include:

Siting, Context and Landscape
- Location near the centre of the downtown

Architectural Qualities
- The building forms expressing the various uses within

Architectural Elements
- Auditoria and scenery fly spaces expressed as cast-in-place concrete volumes over lobby element
- Open glazed lobby element revealing circulation and open interior staircases
- Cantilevered balcony on the south facade facing the plaza
- Pattern of bays on the Cambie Street facade accommodating windows, doors, solid panels, and large overhead doors associated with the working of the theatre spaces
- Low restaurant wing with bridge connection to theatre lobby
- The grey-blue accent colour
- Lobby structure clad in terra cotta

Landscape elements
- Large exterior plaza with circular fountain and surface grid of concrete slabs and brick pavers
- Median planted with Liriodendron tulipifera
- Cast-in-place concrete base to walls with low simple regular relief patterning
- The vehicular drop-off lane at theatre doors



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

City of Vancouver

Recognition Statute

Vancouver Charter, s.582

Recognition Type

Community Heritage Register

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1962/01/01 to 1962/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Learning and the Arts

Function - Category and Type


Auditorium, Cinema or Nightclub


Architect / Designer

ARCOP (Architects in Co-partnership)



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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