by Cheryle A. Harrison
Buildings are more than their uses. Buildings communicate. They have their own language. Historic structures can offer layers of information from stylistic architectural details and the materials used in their construction. We can also understand a building by how we move through a place and from its distinctive interior spaces.
The design of the original Vancouver Stock Exchange (1929) reflects how a building can strategically introduce itself at different locations. Its entrance’s illuminated canopy jutted towards the street, announcing its presence. Inside, the foyer’s stone floors lead to the lobby’s entrance underneath an unadorned east gable, and to a view of the opposite wall’s ornate west gable. In earlier times this west gable directed the way to the VSE trading floor; it also visually introduced the lobby’s elaborate upper space.
Gables are triangular walls above passageways that extend to a peaked ceiling. Rehabilitating the west gable required specialized work and thousands of hours. Hidden under plywood and layers of debris, large areas of this gable had been damaged or destroyed. The doorway’s header structural support was missing. A central faux-window with original grillwork was heavily damaged and its decorative plasterwork gone.
The gable was covered with a thick adhesive, and its removal was a slow process using solvent-gels and surgical tools. As additional cleaning removed layers of grime, the original blue stencil design re-emerged. The gable was structurally reinforced, and areas rebuilt. The faux-window’s architectural plasterwork was replicated. Repairing the gable’s holes and missing sections required meticulous efforts using textured plastering and inpainting reconstruction techniques for its decorative hand-painted finishes.
The gable’s painted silver and blue stencilled surface uses the same materials and techniques as for the ceiling’s paintings. Its architectural plasterwork links to the decorative work along the ceiling and side walls. Together, they provide a splendid introduction to The Exchange.