This 4 feet 10 inch deep block long oddity, recognized by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, was built in 1913 on a bet. When Jack Chow purchased the building in 1985, it went from at one time housing up to 13 businesses, including a hot bath house in the underground extending under the glass block sidewalk, into the head office of Jack Chow Insurance, an established insurance broker firm in Chinatown since the 1960’s. By 1986, its first major heritage rehabilitation was completed, garnering Chow several heritage awards, and a Guinness World Record Certificate.
In 2010, the desire was to renovate again due to deterioration. One of the driving components of the renovation was to create an all glass center vestibule, extending out onto the sidewalk, to allow the passage from one side of the building to the other, without having to leave the interior of the building.
Neon was historically, a common feature in Vancouver’s historic Chinatown, the largest Chinatown neighborhood in North America outside of San Francisco. Very few signs remain today, and the desire to bring this back, and use a modernized version of neon as a central design element, was part of the inspiration for the upgrade.
After some trade show research, LEDNeonflex was found. A multiple-pixel resolution of this product was applied to the new glass staircase, and is featured in the ceiling of the central vestibule, as well as in the window wickets from which Insurance is now sold street-side.
The desire to expand the lit treatment, and take advantage of the glass sidewalk basement skylights, as well as the roof soffit on the upper floor, led to the use of Philips linear luminaries to integrate these features. The color features of the building are supported by a variety of white light accents on the interior and exterior of the building, also integrated into both the functional illumination of the space, as well as the show control system.
The bay windows on the upper floor create both a full-length continuous skylight, and an opportunity to use the length as a lit element. The idea developed from just creating an animated neon facade to creating a series of storyline based shows, inspired by and synchronized to music. Audio and video were added to the design to accommodate the vision.
Designer Rod Chow’s vision was to transform this already world famous landmark, into a street side architainment attraction. By contracting with control system designer firm, Eos Lightmedia, Chow was able to establish an artistically driven collaborate relationship with the firm’s project designer, Eugene Mendelev, to utilize Mendelev’s broad theater based background and programming experience.
With dramatic showcase presentations inspired by the four elements found in the history of man, civilization, and universal concepts, such as love, magic, and the history and modernization of Vancouver Chinatown, The Jack Chow building runs hourly shows synchronized to music, animating the facade during the day and at night.
Project Design Team
Owner: World’s Famous Building Corporation, Jack W. Chow - CEO, Rod Chow - President
Lighting Designer & Director: Rod Chow
Control System Designer and Supplier, System Commissioning & Programming: Eos Lightmedia Corp.
Associate Lighting Director & ETC & Interactive Technologies Programmer: Eugene Mendelev - Eos
Control System Designer: Douglas Welch – Principal, Eos
System Commissioning: Eugene Mendelev – Eos & Mark Hayashida – Eos
Audio & Video Supplier: Westcoast Audio Video Gallery
A/V Designer: Armand Rajkumar – Westcoast
A/V Programming & Integration: Josh Wright – Westcoast
Philips QLX & MX Powercore RGB
LEDNeonflex RGB & White
Strand A21 Lighting Panel
Interactive Technologies CueServer 2 with CuePad touch interface controlling Six DMX universes of approx 850 pixels + 50 control points over 160 white luminaires.
Programming Console: ETC Ion and Nomad interfaces for a variety of seasonal and special event static and animated looks + six audio-synced storyboarded shows
Audio/Video Control: RTI Technologies GX7
Video Distribution: Just Add Power
Speakers: JBL Control 25T – 30 Interior/Exterior
Video Displays: 4K Samsung & Sony - 9 Interior