Ned Pratt, Vancouver architect

Vancouver architect Ned Pratt produced work in an era that—from the standpoint of our developer-led moment—is quickly starting to look like a golden age.  Pratt and Arthur Erickson along with their contemporaries Ron Thom and Fred Hollingsworth still rank among Vancouver’s best and most influential architects. These photos of Ned Pratt’s own 1951 house in West Vancouver, BC, were taken by Foster Grant. The house is a little faded now perhaps, modest and in need of some wood treatment, but it is nevertheless a beautiful modernist post and beam structure. It’s interesting how much smaller the average family home was in those days; when did houses start ballooning? Further below is perhaps Pratt’s most famous work, the modernist BC Electric building of 1955. Leftover glass from the construction of the building was incorporated into the windows of Pratt’s house, as you can see here. BC artist B.C. Binning designed the famous mosaic of the BC Electric Building; he was a friend of Pratt’s and his own house is not far away from this one. It was the first commercial building to be designated heritage in Vancouver, and in 1998 the BC Electric Building, once Vancouver’s most visible landmarks, was turned into condos in a surprisingly successful conversion called The Electra. Heritage Vancouver continues to fight to have Pratt’s Dal Grauer substation (photo at very bottom) protected as an important heritage site. Given Ned Pratt’s influence in Vancouver, there’s surprisingly little information about him online—not even an Wikipedia entry. Someone should remedy this. More information about this era of Vancouver architecture here.

The Electra

reminders #1

The Electra


BC Electric Building (1955)

Photos of the BC Electric building above by CCNZ, Robert Wallace, Jason VPaul Joseph and Chimay Bleue via the Flickr Creative Commons. Below, the Dal Grauer substation via Alex Waterhouse-Hayward.

17 comments on "Ned Pratt, Vancouver architect"

    1. Wow, thanks Steve. I tried to get some photos off that slideshow but as with so many of those tours, everything is fish-eyed! Interesting, though. And thanks for the Saba house article, too, buried inside the Dalla-Lana/Griffin article – another firm I’d like to cover. Thanks again.

  1. What a fantastic house! It’s in desperate need of some TLC, but looks like it’s still intact. I’d love to own it. Thanks for the wonderful post on this under-appreciated architect (like most of Vancouver’s modern architects from that time period…). Reminds me of the last time we got to tour around, Lindsay. Hope we can hit West Van next time…

    1. Yes, West Van next time! You’re not the only one who would love to live here. I wouldn’t mind a crack at it myself. I’m really surprised by the scarcity of information on Ned Pratt but you’re right, that whole generation is little known. Though Ron Thom seems to have a higher profile. PS Thanks for the night photo!

  2. Ned was my great uncle and aside from being a great architect he was a larger than life character. i will be posting a piece on him over at our site soon. i asked him later in his life what he thought of the conversion of the building to ‘the electra’ and he was delighted. from what i understand, he and ron had some arguments about attribution when it came to the hydro building. not an uncommon issue in creative offices.

    1. Hi Mike, that’s really interesting. It’s funny, I always attributed the building to Ned, not to Ron Thom (who’s nevertheless another favourite architect of mine). I’m really looking forward to your post – there isn’t enough information on Ned’s work online. In the meantime, what’s your take on who designed what on that building? If it’s too impolitic to answer that, then please ignore. It’s nice to hear that he liked the condo conversion; they do seem to have done a good job.

  3. When I was growing up, between 1963 and 1973 my family owned the home on 2715 Standish Drive. The house had a very unique design, from anything else in the area. It looked similar to the design of Ned Pratt’s private house. I would love to find out who designed our former home.

  4. I am hoping to connect with Mike above. I have completed a book about Edward Mahon and Ned Pratt was the architect for Lilette Mahon’s new house at 2747 SW Marine Drive, built in 1941. Lilette (Edward’s widow after 1937) was connected to the Art In Living movement and was friend of BC Binning and Net Pratt.
    I need help in identifying Ned in photographs dealing with the construction of this house.
    I will be putting on an exhibit at the North Vancouver Museum late next year on the life and legacy of Edward Mahon, including his wife (a watercolourist mentored by Emily Carr), and only son Bryan (distinguished with Boeing of Seattle). I hope to run a photograph of Ned and Lilette in my book as well as in the exhibit.
    Love the website entry on Pratt.

    1. Hi Walter,
      I’m really looking forward to your exhibit. I can send Mike your email and see if he’ll contact you (I can’t release emails of commenters). What is the title of your book on Mahon and is it available yet?

  5. Hi Lindsay:
    The book title will be “The Green Necklace: the Vision Quest of Edward Mahon”. I am hoping to have it available when the exhibit opens next November. Residents of North Vancouver will know that the title refers to Edward’s legacy to that city: the linked green spaces in the form of landscaped roads, boulevards and parks that surround the city core. Edward was also influential in the development of Castlegar where I reside. The book deals with that, as well as his better known activity in Greater Vancouver.

  6. Here is a little-known-fact about Ned Pratt. He was the first UBC student to win an Olympic medal. Along with rowing partner Noel De Mille, he won a bronze medal in double sculls at the 1932 Olympic Games in Amsterdam. Not surprisingly, his firm was awarded several projects at UBC, including the design of War Memorial Gymnasium completed in 1951.

  7. Just a note to let you know that I have a short article on Ned on my website ( in the What’s New column. The website has been chosen for the 2012 website prize by the BC Historical Federation.

  8. I lived in Ned Pratt’s 1953 home at 430 Stevens for 7 years and it was an amazing place. I’m friends with his son Peter who I’m happy to report has done an outstanding job of renovating the house while retaining it’s original character. I have some pics I should probably make available. I did a lot of work to try and restore the pool while I was there and reclaim the yard

  9. Hi

    Thank you for this great article. . Wondering how to reach the writer of this article. I am Ned’s granddaughter and I am looking for the writer to help me write a Wikipedia page for Ned Pratt. Thank you Bianca Pratt

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