Situated in the Southwest corner of Hastings Park, the Garden Auditorium is a beautiful heritage building featuring a built-in stage and wooden floors. It was once a popular dance hall, full of big-band sounds. Currently, it’s filled with the sounds of contemporary circus as this building serves as the year-round home to CircusWest Performing Arts Society.
“The Gardens” is a Class A Heritage building, built in 1939, and designed by Townley and Matheson, the same architects who designed Vancouver City Hall. According to the Heritage “Statement of Significance” dated March 2010, some character defining elements of the Garden Auditorium include:
- Location on the South edge of Hastings Park and its identity as a local landmark
- Location amidst an “urban forest” of mature trees
- The close relationship to the commemorative Momiji Gardens
Just prior to its use by CircusWest, “The Gardens” had been unoccupied for many years, occasionally hosting film crews and trade shows. Looking further back, “The Gardens” is rich with history! CircusWest’s year-round home has hosted a wide variety of high profile events over the years, including the Simpson-Sears Fashion Show, international Billiards tournaments and performances by American rock and country musician Glenn Campbell and professional wrestler Andre the Giant. In the “Golden Age” of the Pacific Northwest music scene, musicians and bands like Ray Charles, BB King, The Clash, Frank Zappa, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd and more were rocking the roof off of this Vancouver Heritage building.
Since moving here in 2003, this beautiful heritage building has been providing CircusWest with the space needed to run our circus programs, performances and activities. Today, as you walk in the Garden Auditorium, you will be greeted by the exuberant atmosphere of circus with a 40 foot long tumbling track, olympic sized trampolines and aerials silks dangling from the ceiling. Every year, hundreds of kids, teens and adults flip, spin and swing through the Gardens to broaden their knowledge of circus arts. Watching from the stands, one is awe struck by the gravity defying feats, mesmerized by the intricacy of juggling patterns, gasping in amazement at the acrobatic power and smiling along with the 7 year old zipping around on a unicycle. Whether it’s learning the fundamentals, trying to get, or stay, in shape, or professional development for circus artists, the Garden Auditorium plays host to a broad range of circus activities exposing the wonders of contemporary circus to the Vancouver community.
CircusWest is proud to share a space with such cultural significance to the Vancouver arts community and are pleased to add our contribution to the rich history of the Garden Auditorium with our circus arts.
*Historic Gardens Photo Credit – City of Vancouver Archive
*CircusWest Photo Credit – Dan Henshaw