British Columbia·Photos

Vancouver's lost history uncovered at art deco exhibition

Art deco architecture remains prominent feature of Vancouver — but it's often overlooked, says curator.

Art deco architecture remains a prominent feature across the city — but it's often overlooked, says curator

Photos by Simon Desrochers and illustrations by Matthieu Persan are featured throughout The Lost Vancouver: An Unexpected Art Deco Tour. (Simon Desrochers/Matthieu Persan)

"Art deco is everywhere."

Those are the words imprinted on artist Mathieu Persan's interpretation of Vancouver City Hall — an illustration that highlights the building's architectural heritage.

Art deco is indeed peppered throughout Vancouver. The architectural style that took form in the early 1900's is present in the Commodore Ballroom, the Burrard Street Bridge, and the downtown Marine Building.

But according to art curator Anne Vegnaduzzo, Vancouverites seem to have forgotten about the inherent beauty that resides in some of the city's architecture — so she put together an exhibition to help them remember.

The Vogue Theatre has been one of the most prominent buildings on the Granville strip since it opened in 1941. (Matthieu Persan/Simon Desrochers)

The Lost Vancouver

The exhibition is titled The Lost Vancouver: An Unexpected Art Deco Tour. It's part of the Capture Photography Festival and runs at the Space Gallery on Clark Drive.

"All around the city, you have this magnificent historical architecture that is sometimes known, and sometimes not," she said.

Vegnaduzzo says she first became interested in Vancouver's art deco history after cycling through Kitsilano and catching a glance of the historic Hollywood Theatre. Plans are currently being made to transform the historic Vancouver landmark into a fitness centre.

The iconic Marine Building was the tallest sky scraper in the city until the late 1930s. (Matthieu Persan/Simon Desrochers)

Raising awareness

Vegnaduzzo worries that the redevelopment of the Hollywood Theatre is a symptom of Vancouverites' apathy to their city's iconic architecture.

"[Walking] on the Burrard bridge — [you] rarely take the time to look at the architecture of it, the details of it," she said. "How many people while driving by city hall are thinking about the architecture of that place?"

Images at the exhibition enhance some of the unique features of the architecture, as well as showcasing reimagined portrayals of Vancouver's Art Deco.

"The lost Vancouver is underlining more the question [how people feel] about their heritage — perhaps the tendancy in town is just to look at the future only.

"But I do believe that it's important not just for the people living here, but people visiting, to have a mark of what happened."

The art deco Burrard Street Bridge was constructed in the early 1930's. (Matthieu Persan/Simon Desrochers)