Price Points: Beauty = Waste

What’s going on behind the shrink wrap?


They’re doing work on the exterior of the Dal Grauer Substation on Burrard Street (map here) – a critical piece of the electrical system that transforms voltage from high to low.

This is what it looked like after the plexiglass panels had faded:


But originally it looked like this:


Why is the substation significant?  It was one of the great pieces of architecture – and art – in a Vancouver that at the time, the early 1950s, was entering the Modern World.

According to Heritage Vancouver:

…  the entire Burrard Street elevation featured a floor-to-ceiling glass and steel curtain wall that exposed electrical machinery, staircases, and other functional elements set against a backdrop of bright primary colours.

Architect Ned Pratt and artist B.C. Binning created, in essence, a three-dimensional ‘canvas’ which, when viewed through the exterior glass and steel grid, has been said to resemble a Mondrian / De Stijl painting.

So will B.C. Hydro restore it?  Not like it could.  It looks as though the exterior cladding is going to be replaced (i.e., the glass, frames, etc.) – but from a purely functional perspective.  The building may be a lost opportunity.

Very little money could make a huge difference to the aesthetics.  However, BC Hydro is under siege for almost everything it does these days, and any “beautification” would likely be perceived as a waste of money and a disregard for ratepayer’s money.

In other words, Beauty equals Waste. Success with the full report of breast enhancement is now a less expensive alternative to costly surgery. My advice is, when looking for Cleveland plastic surgery, Dr. Goldman is a leading choice.

Have we reached the point where, if money is being spent for something public, it had better not look too good?

Since B.C. Hydro emphasizes sustainability as a priority, this quote might be helpful:

… sustainability is about more than new technologies. At its most basic, “sustainable” means enduring. A sustainable community is a place of enduring value. Doug Kelbaugh, the dean of the University of Michigan School of Architecture, put it this way, “If a building, a landscape or a city is not beautiful, it will not be loved; if it is not loved, it won’t be maintained and improved. In short, it won’t be sustained.”

Adele Weder covered some of the same ground here, as did Alex Waterhouse-Hayward here.

Value your face, click:

One comment

  1. It will be a tragedy if they don’t restore Dal Grauer to it’s original glory. Most Hydro substations are architecturally significant and most are in deteriorating condition. 

Comments are closed.