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Urban Planning + Architecture

BC Binning’s Masterpiece, Hiding in Plain Sight

ARTIFACT: How to find and ‘read’ the stunning tile mosaic created by the legendary artist in 1958.

Eve Lazarus 22 Apr 2021 | TheTyee.ca

Eve Lazarus is a Vancouver author who hosts and produces the Cold Case Canada podcast. Her nine books include the B.C. bestsellers Vancouver Exposed, Murder by Milkshake and Cold Case Vancouver.

[Editor’s note: This is republished with permission from author Eve Lazarus’s excellent book ‘Vancouver Exposed: Searching for the City’s Hidden History,’ and appeared as well on her blog, ‘Every Place Has a Story: A blog about history, heritage buildings and murder.’]

Next time you’re in downtown Vancouver and have a mascara emergency or need some aspirin, drop into the Shoppers Drug Mart at Granville and Dunsmuir. Once you hit the cosmetics area, you might just forget what you came in for, because opposite the front entrance and right above the gift cards is one of the hidden wonders of the city — a stunning tile mosaic created by legendary artist B.C. Binning in 1958.

Although it’s probably best not to, if you go up to the second floor, you can actually touch one of the 200,000 pieces of Venetian glass that make up this massive mural that dominates the entire length of the wall.

Binning, an artist who taught architecture, was commissioned by the Imperial Bank of Canada to celebrate the province’s booming resource-based economy, from hydroelectricity and forestry to shipping and agriculture, with a “key” to help interpret it.

851px version of BCBinningMuralKey.jpg
The key to understanding BC Binning’s mural. Image courtesy of Jason Vanderhill, Illustrated Vancouver.

Binning spent more than three months in Venice overseeing its preparation, climbing a ladder a few times each day to look down at the growing tile and marble mosaic for the overall effect. When the greens weren’t as vibrant as he expected, he had the tiles changed.

When the mosaic was finished — all 500 square feet of it — it was shipped to Canada in 12 boxes, to be reassembled on the wall like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

McCarter Nairne (the architects behind the Marine Building, Devonshire Hotel and Georgia Medical and Dental Building), designed the mid-century building which featured terrazzo floors, polished granite and marble columns.  [Tyee]

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