Lurking in the shadows of Calgary's tallest buildings is the Elveden Centre, which was itself the most prominent highrise in the city at its time of construction. The three-tower complex designed by Alberta architectural practice Rule Wynn and Rule in the International Style was executed in three phases between 1959 and 1964, and today, is recognized as a Category A (top priority) site by the Calgary Heritage Authority.

Elveden Centre, image by Cszmurlo via Wikimedia Commons

The crude oil discovery of Leduc No. 1 in 1947 led to an explosion of new office buildings in Calgary, built to accommodate the influx of profiting oil companies moving into the city. The world-famous Guinness family had monetary interests in Calgary-based Duke Drilling Investment Company and Seabridge Investments. They commissioned the construction of a major office complex through their development company, British Pacific Building, and hired the prolific Rule Wynn and Rule to design the project. 

Elveden Centre under construction in 1961, image via Glenbow Archives NA-2864-1536-1

Construction of the development was only allowed to proceed once a nagging 12-storey height limit was rescinded in 1958. The Commonwealth Construction Company then began assembling the structure in 1959 using steel from the Dominion Bridge Company.

The central tower in the complex was the first and tallest of the three to be built. The 80-metre Elveden House was completed in 1960 and bears the name of the Guinness' Suffolk estate, which took its name from half of Benjamin Guinness' peer, Viscount Elveden. The name attached to the second tower, Iveagh House, is derived from the other half of Benjamin Guinness' peer, the Earl of Iveagh. The third tower was simply named Guinness House, and was constructed between 1962 and 1964.

Protruding rhombuses embedded into the facade of the building, image by Flickr user James Tworow via Creative Commons

While other buildings around it like Westview Heights have altered their exteriors, the block-wide complex has stayed true to its Modernist origins. Curtain wall cladding, aluminum framing, and spandrel panels are arranged within a rectangular containment. The podium also continues to recall the development's roots, with mosaic angels and harps reminding informing passersby of the Guinness' involvement in the project.

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