One of Vancouver’s most curious pieces of architecture, Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park opened its doors for the first time on December 6, 1969.
Situated at the highest point of land in the city and its geographic centre, Bloedel was Vancouver’s answer to a nation-wide call in 1966 for cities to create visionary and iconic projects to honour the nation’s centennial.
To get the project funded, the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation worked with Prentice Bloedel of the Macmillan Bloedel Lumber Company, who provided a substantial donation–the biggest one the city had received to date.
Bloedel was dedicated at its launch to “to a better appreciation and understanding of the world of plants.”
The conservatory is home to over 120 free-flying exotic birds and 500 exotic plants and flowers contained in a temperature-controlled environment, housed in its iconic dome. Not surprisingly, the building has Heritage status.
Bloedel’s dome was designed using the Triodetic System of construction, which was developed patented in Canada.
We might think Bloedel is just a funky spot that’s no big deal, but for the late 1960s, it was taking some bold steps in design, according to the facility’s blog:
“The Bloedel Conservatory is significant for its historical, symbolic, cultural, and social values, and particularly for its use of technologies and building methods which were quite advanced for its time in 1969. The Conservatory, the fountain and the surrounding plaza were all designed to work together and with specific goals to show man’s connection to nature. The curving lines of the fountain harmonize with the Conservatory dome, while the leaping fountains add vertical movement to mirror distant trees. The dome structure, with its absence of interior supporting columns, was chosen to provide an unobstructed view of the exotic gardens within. The Bloedel Conservatory won the prestigious Vincent Massey Award for Excellence in Urban Environment in 1971, is a ‘Class A’ Heritage Building and is listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.”
Take a look at this clip from a documentary that memorializes Bloedel Conservatory’s opening day:
Bonus: Here’s a timelapse video showing its restoration in 2014.