Blood Alley Ghost Lobby
At Sholto Design Studio, each project starts with understanding who we’re doing it for and why. Once we’ve clarified our intentions, we look into what the product requirements are and how to deliver work that meets the highest possible standards.
In the case of the Blood Alley Ghost Bar Lobby, the primary users were the tenants living in the building, the passers-by on Cordova street, and the people who visit, live and work in Gastown. Our intention was to share the history of the area and have visitors reflect on their own place within that story. When stepping into this space we hoped that people would enter another realm, starting and ending their day in a context entirely different from their own. The Ghost Bar, conceived by Gregory Henriquez through his namesake firm Henriquez Partners Architects, was styled as if left mid-use since the turn of the 20th century. To realize this vision, Sholto Design Studio strived to ensure that all designs were founded on meticulous research and created using a network of skilled fabricators throughout greater Vancouver. It was important to maintain historical accuracy and represent the people who inhabited the area now known as Gastown in the early 1900’s. We conducted wide-ranging research into the clothing they wore, the money they spent, and the minutiae of their day to day. This meant handcrafting period-correct clothing, furniture, coins, playing cards, bottles and glasses, as well as a life-sized horse, all of which can be situated in time through their details. We employed local expert craftspersons to carve, sew, machine, and paint the items as seen today. Sholto Design Studio oversaw all of the design, fabrication and installation, working closely with each of the makers to finish the work to a detailed and exacting standard.
The Ghost Lobby represents a time when work was hard, days were long, and settlers had come from across Europe, Asia, and North America to start new lives. Under a bigleaf maple in Gastown was where the City of Vancouver was inaugurated, and the point at which early development spread from. This area is known colloquially as Maple Tree Square, in reference to the Indigenous name Kemk’emeláy, meaning “the place of many maple trees.” Historically, this area was once a thriving seasonal village for the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples, who used to gather here and harvest seafood. Though the Indigenous Peoples were the foundation of the community, the Indian Act of 1876 which was designed to subjugate and assimilate them had since prohibited them from entering or being served at bars and pool halls. This measure was not to be reformed until 1951.