Saturday, March 23, 2013

canada re-posting...




When I recently heard that Canada Post has plans to close and sell off the Main Post Office building in downtown Vancouver, it reminded me that I have a few photos of it in my archives that I have been meaning to post for some time now... [And since I have been dawdling over this post, this huge modernist ship has already sailed off to new owners, who have as yet unformulated plans for it, besides the ambiguous "large-scale mixed-use development" response to queries!]

The General Post Office [as it was previously called] at 349 West Georgia Street is a squat bulky structure sprawling over an entire city block with a no-nonsense functionality to its demeanor. Designed by McCarter, Nairne, and Partners [the firm that also designed the stylistically different Seaforth Armoury building on Burrard Street that I had posted about earlier], it took five years to build and was completed in 1958.
It was touted as the world's largest steel-welded structure of its time and sported a rooftop helipad for those deliveries of an urgent and delicate nature! [James Bond-style postal missions notwithstanding, that well-intentioned heliport had never seen much action!]
There is also a 2,400 feet long conveyor belt system running underground to the CPR Waterfront Station that was not utilized for any secret deliveries either!

The frontal fa├žade above the colonnaded walkway is dimpled with blue terra cotta insets and stamped by two massive cast aluminum Canadian crests. The columns along the walkway are of polished grey granite while the exterior walls are warmly clad with russet granite panels.

The building is comprised of 5 stories stretching the full block length with an additional 3 floors rising on slender columns on top of the main structure. [The original plans included a taller tower above but was stunted due to budget constraints.]

This bas-relief sculpture of the elegantly caped-and-capped postie was made by a now forgotten European sculptor with a local studio [signed P.K.-HUBA on the sole of the postie's right boot, but I could find no trace of him mentioned elsewhere].  
[I know the daughter of Ronald Nairne [the architect] who remembers visiting this sculptor's studio some Saturday mornings with her father to check on the progress of the work and  the sculptor would allow her to "help" him with parts of the piece [the draping part of the cape, she pointed out!].  He also made a bust of her that she still has, but she doesn't remember much else of him either.]





*****


Within the building itself, I was restricted to shooting only in the public areas - although I will try to gain access to other parts of the building on a later date if I can obtain permission somehow...



High-quality aluminum was used for trims, post boxes, long tables and window frames that were provided by one of England's largest and most venerable window manufacturers at the time.



Canada Post will be moving out of this building to new facilities by the Vancouver Airport in Richmond in 2014.  It remains to be seen if this example of west coast institutional modernism will be saved, reinterpreted and forwarded on as a purposeful current address!

More information on this building can be found on the Heritage Vancouver website.



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