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Today, the winners of BC’s Best Buildings Contest were announced by David M. Hewitt, AFBC Chairman, saying that: “We all have our favourite buildings. Buildings with architectural lines we love, old houses with never-forgotten memories within their walls and shops that invite us in; buildings that hold special significance and have become a touchstone in our lives. The Foundation wanted British Columbians to recognize and celebrate those special buildings across the province.

The contest, which marked 100 years of architecture as a profession in BC, received more than 450 nominations from around the world. People were then invited to vote online for their favourite buildings, identifying the most popular, and the top 25 in each of the four regions — Interior, Vancouver Island, Northern, Southern. From those top 25, a panel of judges met to
assess the nominations against the criteria of appearance, sentimental
value, historical significance and originality.

The panel of judges, made up of noted BC historian & heritage expert Michael Kluckner, journalist and architectural aficionado Shelley Fralic, and award-winning architect David M. Hewitt, AFBC Chair, met and determined regional winners and runners up. The owners of the winning buildings will receive a plaque for mounting on their buildings and the runners up will receive a special certificate.

Fernie Court House

The Best Buildings, as selected by the judges, in each region of the province are as follows:

Interior Region:
#1: Seabird Island School, Agassiz
#2: Fernie Courthouse, Fernie
#3: The Langham Cultural Centre, Kaslo

The Fernie Courthouse

The judges felt it was important to note the significant fact that all the
winners in this category were community-gathering places, spanning a century
of building and reflecting enduring stories of B.C.’s history and peoples.
A number of century-old provincial courthouses were nominated, but the
judges cited Fernie as the best for its dramatic site and its remoteness
from the province’s centre of power. Seabird Island School is exemplary for
its response to First Nations values and contemporary educational demands.
The Langham centre in Kaslo is the only nominated site recalling the
Japanese-Canadian internment during the Second World War.

Vancouver Island:
#1: The Empress Hotel, Victoria
#2: The Parliament Buildings, Victoria
#3: The Bastion, Nanaimo

Given that Victoria is the seat of B.C.’s government, the judges felt that
the Parliament Buildings hold a special spot in peoples’ hearts and instil
in all British Columbians a great pride. The Empress Hotel is a
not-to-be-missed landmark from a genteel era when the Canadian Pacific
Railway and its steamship services dominated the provincial economy. The
Bastion in Nanaimo is a relic of the province’s early fur-trade history,
built with the axes of skilled French-Canadian employees of the Hudson’s Bay
Company; it remains a significant piece of history and pride for Nanaimo
residents.

Northern Region:

#1: Dawson Creek Art Gallery
#2: Rolla Pub, Rolla
#3: North Pacific Cannery, Port Edward

The Northern region was the last unsettled, arable piece of B.C., and was
advertised a century ago as the “Last West.” The judges selected buildings
that represent the importance of community to Northerners. The judges were
impressed that buildings as diverse as an igloo, police barracks, a shed over a hot springs and a pub were all competing to be the most popular buildings in this region. The Dawson Creek Art Gallery, a converted grain elevator, reflects the settlement of the area after hardy Marquis wheat was introduced in 1909. The pub at Rolla, a crossroads in the vast grain fields of the Peace Country, is a magnet for people from the lonesome homesteads of the area. The North Pacific Cannery at Port Edward, near Prince Rupert, is the most intact survivor from the era when out port canneries were complete towns and fishing was a huge part of the province’s resource economy.

Southern Region:

#1: Marine Building, Vancouver
#2: Museum of Anthropology, University Endowment Lands
#3: Hobbit House, West King Edward Avenue, Vancouver

The judges felt that these buildings demonstrated a cross-section of the
architecture in a modern urban region – an institution, an office building and a home spanning almost a century. All three reflected landmark qualities that speak to people and evoke an emotional connection. The judges also observed that people living in a very young city tend to appreciate and value their historical buildings.

And while the judges were particular in their reasons for their choices, it’s also worth noting that after all the public votes were tallied, the most popular building cited by participants in the contest was actually the Mission Hill Winery in Kelowna. Nominators said they feel like they are visiting old Europe when at the winery, that it is an extraordinarily special building, and seems timeless.

About the Architecture Foundation of BC

The Architecture Foundation of BC was conceived by a group of senior BC architects to recognize and encourage excellence in architecture. Incorporated in early 2001, the Foundation has held various programs and fundraising events from which it can provide grants to support and fulfill its mission to promote awareness, understanding and appreciation of architecture and design in BC.

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