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Double Take: Film & TV Landmarks in Downtown

Hollywood North’s leading architectural landmarks are ready for their close-up

Sep. 2018

Photo by KK Law

Hotel Europe

Built 1909

As seen in Legends of the Fall, The NeverEnding Story, Twice’s “Likey” music video

The iconic flatiron-style building that dominates Gastown’s Maple Tree Square isn’t just the oldest reinforced-concrete structure in Vancouver: it’s the oldest in all of Canada. (Naturally, it’s also rumoured to be haunted.) If it feels like a little slice of New York City, that’s because the design echoes Manhattan’s famous Flatiron Building, constructed in 1902. Elegant original features—including Italian tile floors and granite columns—make it an ideal location for historical films. Originally a hotel for business travellers, the heritage building is now home to residential units and quirky shops. The best spot to snap a selfie with this landmark is from across the street, facing the Gassy Jack statue.

Photo by Nelson Mouellic/Tourism Vancouver

Orpheum Theatre

Built 1927

As seen in The X-Files, The L Word, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1

This historic concert hall’s Granville Street entrance is marked by a vintage marquee and dazzling neon sign. True to the opulent style of the roaring twenties, the interior features wall-to-wall red carpets, enormous crystal chandeliers and baroque murals sprawled across vaulted ceilings. The “Mighty Wurlitzer” organ is as old as the hall itself, and is the only theatre organ in Canada that still occupies its original space. On-screen, this perfectly preserved venue has been used as the backdrop for nostalgic flashbacks, political campaigns and, of course, lavish concerts. Experience the magic in real life when the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra kicks off its 100th season later this month.

Photo ©Illy3/istockphoto.com

Vancouver Public Library,

Central Branch

Built 1995

As seen in The Interview, Supergirl, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

This community hub takes up the entire city block known as Library Square. Moshe Safdie’s design sparked controversy when it was first proposed, as some locals worried it was too traditional for our young city. Fortunately, 70 percent of Vancouverites voted in favour of the Roman Colosseum–inspired structure. The end result? A freestanding elliptical wall curves around the main building, and a skylit atrium entrance makes every visit feel like a special occasion. On-screen, this space has been used as a grandiose gala backdrop, shopping mall and more. Grab a latte or slice of pizza from one of the atrium shops, and settle in for prime people-watching on the steps that overlook Robson Street.

Photo ©Ian McDonald/Dreamstime.com

Marine Building

Built 1930

As seen in Smallville, Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Blade: Trinity

This ornate office building in the business district was once the tallest skyscraper in the British Empire. It’s also one of the most impressive examples of art deco architecture around. Intricate marine-themed carvings and brass details frame the revolving doors, which lead into a lobby featuring a stained-glass window, zodiac-inlaid floor and whimsical clock with sea creatures in the place of numbers. Even the ceiling is decked out in detailed carvings. Over the years, this eye-catching masterpiece has been cast as everything from a bank to newspaper offices to superhero headquarters. Ride one of the elevators—adorned with stunning hardwood inlay—to the mezzanine for a fresh perspective on the lobby below.

Photo by KK Law

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical

Chinese Garden

Built 1986

As seen in Highlander, MacGyver, The Flash, Continuum

An oasis of tranquillity in the heart of bustling Chinatown, this was the first full-scale Chinese classical garden to be built outside of Asia, and remains the only one of its kind in Canada. It was constructed without a single nail or screw (and no glue, either). National Geographic named it the best city garden in the world. Designed in the style of a Ming dynasty scholar’s garden—with a peaceful pond, rugged rock landscaping and high walls that keep city sounds at bay—it’s the perfect place to film scenes set in China. Step through the circular moon gate and enjoy a meditative stroll along the tree-lined pathways, or take a guided tour to get the inside scoop on this introspective space.

Photo ©Deymoshr/Shutterstock.com

Vancouver Art Gallery

Built 1906

As seen in iZombie, Big Eyes, This Means War, X-Men: The Last Stand

This neoclassical building was a provincial courthouse before being renovated into an art gallery by Arthur Erickson in 1983. Despite the modernist updates, there are still plenty of grand columns and ornate stonework elements—including a handsome pair of granite lions guarding the now-defunct entrance on West Georgia Street. Boasting 3,850 sq m (41,400 sq ft) of exhibition space, it’s the largest public art museum in Western Canada. It’s been featured in movies and TV shows not only as a courtroom and museum, but also as a mayor’s office, metro station and city hall. Explore works by Canadian greats such as Emily Carr and Jeff Wall, then refuel on the patio with a panini from the on-site cafe.

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