Western Canada Architecture
Western Canada provides some of the most noteworthy architecture in Canada. Influences range from First Nations art and architecture to the Victorian and Edwardian period Summer estates built along the railroad. Today, the architectural design of Western Canada is marked by a fusion or symbolic respect of landscape, culture, and environment. The best comtemporary examples of Western Canada architecture stems from some of the best designed 2010 Winter Olympics venues of Vancouver and Whistler. The Richmond Olympic Oval, with its focus on sustainability, pine-beetle wood, heat reuse and with the addition of First Nations artistic elements, such as the waterfall arches, represents this culmination of Western Canadian architecture.
First Nations have provided influence then and now. From the coastal areas of what is today British Columbia to the plains of Alberta, the pre colonization period was marked by habitat and ceremonial design that joined local materials to support living standards and incorporate the story of the people. The Long Houses of the Pacific North West are probably the most renowned example. Some of the most impressive First Nations architecture was that of the settled people of the west coast such as the Haida. These people used advanced carpentry and joinery skills to construct large houses of red cedar. The most advanced architecture was the six beam house, named for the number of beams that supported the roof. Today, the symbiosis of story, people, and culture is strengthening to form a new modern identity.
While the first Europeans sought commercial interests to the Pacific as traders or guides, European influences in architecture appeared during the Victorian Period and continued during the Edwardian Period and beyond. Within the context of 20th century modernity, architecture followed the course of the railroad. The Château Style, also known as Railway Gothic, appeared in the late nineteenth century with grandiose railway hotels such as the Banff Springs Hotel. These Western Canadian architectural structures are considered Victorian Gothic Revival with influences from castles in the Loire in France. The primary architectural landmarks of Western Canada during this era include:
- Hotel McDonald in Edmonton
- Palliser Hotel in Calgary
- Banff Springs Hotel
- Chateau Lake Louise
- Jasper Park Lodge
- Hotel Vancouver
- Empress in Victoria
After the Second World War, the desire for unique Canadian styles faded as the International Style came to dominate Western Canada architecture . Many of the most prominent Canadian projects of this period were designed by internationally renowned architects. Prominent modernists such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and I.M. Pei designed major works in Canada. While the glass boxes of the International Style skyscraper were at first unique and interesting, the idea was soon repeated to the point of ubiquity. It is also noteworthy to mention the boom of towers with integrated rotating restaurants that emerged across Canada, including the Calgary Tower and in Vancouver, the Sears building.
Today, a prominent heritage preservation movement has developed that incorporates modern design, sustainability, and local culture. Larger cities like Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton have heritage districts where old factories and warehouses have been refurbished. Smaller cities and towns have also understood the value of creating modern, gentrified restorations that attract tourists and raise the standard of living in their respective communities. Ultimately, the investment made during the 2010 Vancouver and Whistler Olympics venues provide a snapshot of current trends in Western Canada architecture.