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How to save a theatre: The Orpheum, Vancouver.

Laing, Richard


Richard Laing


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to concern the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver, which survived the threat of major internal demolition and rebuilding during the 1960s and early 1970s. The building has subsequently undergone significant restoration and conservation work, including the incorporation of modern acoustic improvements and the construction of a new entrance area. Understanding the mechanisms through which the building was restored and brought back into use formed a central strand of the work. Design/methodology/approach: The paper employed a single case study approach, and used the Orpheum Theatre to simultaneously study and consider the practical and heritage implications of the restoration project. The methods employed included archival study, on site recording and a study of the social and architectural history of the building. Findings: The manner in which the building was restored was unusual and rooted in the community, and holds resonance for many similarly at risk theatres and cinemas, in both Canada and elsewhere. Practical implications: The paper is interesting both from the perspective of that refurbishment, and also from the fact that it was designed by a prominent Scottish architect, B. Marcus Priteca, who designed a large number of early movie palaces in Canada and the USA. Originality/value: Through exploration of the processes involved in saving the building, the paper draws conclusions regarding its importance to the continued vibrancy of the city. The incorporation of social as well as technical information within building conservation also holds resonance within building conservation practice and planning. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.


LAING, R. 2013. How to save a theatre: The Orpheum, Vancouver. Structural survey [online], 31(5), pages 355-367. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 31, 2013
Online Publication Date Nov 4, 2013
Publication Date Dec 31, 2013
Deposit Date Jan 9, 2014
Publicly Available Date Jan 9, 2014
Journal Structural survey
Print ISSN 0263-080X
Electronic ISSN 1758-6844
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 31
Issue 5
Pages 355-367
Keywords Restoration; Theatre; Vancouver; Scotland; Heritage; Skills; Design
Public URL


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