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Block Magazine

Creativity has its place
Spring/Summer 2021
issue 22

Thu. 19 November 12:41 P.M.

At the tippity-top of Vancouver’s iconic Sun Tower.

BY: Juliana Moore
PHOTOS BY: Martin Tessler

Vancouver’s Sun Tower is famous for its rich green beaux-arts dome and the nine “nude muses” that support its cornice. When it was built in 1912, it was the tallest steel structure in the British Commonwealth. For a time, it was the factory and distribution centre for the Vancouver Sun. It now stands as a bold reminder of an erstwhile Vancouver, prior to her ever more apt nickname, “City of Glass.”

But a century takes a toll, and some of the tower’s original beauty faded. In 2011, Allied acquired the building, and this relationship has allowed for a profound upgrade to the foundation and a formidable restoration of the facade. Kostas Kotoulas, master mason, is leading this restoration. As charismatic and high-hearted as they come, he sees his vocation almost like a religion. “With the Sun Tower, we are taking something that’s very old and bringing back her original beauty with respect and honour,” he says, standing on scaffolding 18 storeys high during a routine inspection.

“A building, like a person, experiences some neglect and deteriorates over time. You must be passionate and care for a building the way you care for yourself. That’s the work we are doing now.” Kotoulas’ father and grandfather were both masons and his son is an architect; love of this craft runs deep. “We care for each broken piece with respect in order to bring it back to life,”

Kotoulas says. “And if you wonder who is going to notice these little things missing when they are 18 storeys high? We will. We must!”

For many, the Sun Tower’s dome is its focal point—the image you carry with you long after seeing it. “The first roof was made of terracotta tiles and painted green to appear like real copper,” Kotoulas explains. “We are mimicking the original, except what we are using here is real copper tile. It will look orange for a while but, with time, will naturally turn green.”

It begins to rain, as it does so often in Vancouver, and Kotoulas, who makes his home in Winnipeg, looks out across miles of city and endless sky before climbing back inside the dome.

“A building, like a person, experiences some neglect and deteriorates over time. You must be passionate and care for a building the way you care for yourself.”

Master mason Kostas Kotoulas leads the efforts to restore the caryatids (sculpted figural pillars) and reface the dome in copper. The tower remains partially hidden behind tarp and scaffolding until the renovation’s completion, slated for the end of August.

Sun Tower is located at 128 West Pender Street (at Beatty Street), Vancouver.

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