July 2, 2021

How Colour is Coming to Vancouver

Viewpoint (Daily Scot in particular) has been railing for many years on the absence of colour in Vancouver architecture – notably here in Grey Days and Grey Ways: Vancouver’s Default Colour.

But there is a trend emerging that introduces colour into the cityscape, not so much in the architecture but in the art that uses the building as a canvas.  It’s the mural.

There are a few examples where a developer has taken a surprising leap on size and colour in what is normally a risk-adverse business, like this condo tower that jumps out on the skyline.


The Vancouver Mural Festival has also established them as a feature of many neighbourhoods, notably Mount Pleasant.

But while it is unlikely that there is going to be a sudden move away from the economically driven use of grey-to-green glass facades and industrial-grey paint for our infrastructure (there must have been a very large purchase back in the ’50s), expect more exuberance in the name of art.

Here’s the latest:

A massive, full-building mural by celebrated Canadian artist Douglas Coupland will soon liven up the walls of The Berkeley tower at Vancouver’s English Bay …  The building’s owner, Reliance Properties, commissioned the world-renowned artist to paint the rental apartment tower’s exterior, which is currently undergoing extensive renovations.

The conceptual design is quintessential Douglas Coupland, with an array of colourful geometric patterns inspired by his own world travels, particularly the bright colours of Spain’s coastal cities.

Given the reception that any exceptional public art is given by us locals (notably the sculpture chosen by the Vancouver Biennale, like A-Maze-ing Laughter just metres from The Berkeley), expect the same as the white undercoat that went up in a day this week is covered by reference to colour not found in the rain forest below or the cloudscape above.

While we’re at the corner of Davie and Pacific, here are some fun facts: The Berkeley is one of the first modern highrise towers in the city, built in 1958 (you can tell by the absence of balconies), designed by architect Warnett Kennedy – who was also an NPA alderman from 1974 to ’84.

The building to the right, Imperial Towers, was a development built in 1962 by Tom Campbell, who was Vancouver’s mayor from 1967 to ’72.   (Ah, the days when developers didn’t need to lobby council so much as run for it.)  Imperial Towers was the first in the city over 30 storeys and the tallest in western Canada at the time; it has always been as dull as it looks today.

So recognition to developer Jon Stovell at Reliance Holdings, who’s never been afraid to take some risk or some flack for his opinions.  He should expect (and give) more in the next few weeks.



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  1. A few years ago they did some facade work on my building. As this was going on I noticed they tried a bunch of colour swatches out and got somewhat excited, hoping they’d actually make the building more colourful.

    Of course that didn’t happen. They went back to battleship gray, which prompted me to ask the manager when they were going to install the anti-ship canon on the roof.

  2. Wouldn’t it be great if all those elevator shafts plunked on top of buildings could be covered in murals? We should counter our greyness the way Scandinavians do — urban planning with colour in mind.

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