Monday, March 23, 2015

The Mother of all Invention

The Sam Kee Building situated in West Street Vancouver was built in 1913 and only measures 1.5 meters deep, making it the shallowest commercial building in the world. What possessed somebody to commission a structure of such narrow width, tells the story of gentleman who aptly demonstrated that necessity is the mother of all invention.

Before the building was constructed, the City of Vancouver had without any compensation, expropriated most of the property belonging to Chang Toy, owner of the Sam Kee Company. Once the expropriation process had been finalised, Toy was left with only 2 meters (6.5 ft) of seemingly useless land.

Most people advised Toy that it would be impossible build retail space on it, however the determined merchant had no intention of taking it lying down.

Toy managed to hire an architect who could design a building to fit on his remaining property and once completed, the overall building consisted of two floors and a basement. To compensate for the small area, the second floor was widened with protruding bay windows and the basement was extended beneath the pavement. The first floor housed retail shops, the second was used for residential units while the basement was said to have contained public baths.

The red arrows inserted into the top left of the above image depict its entire width.

Despite its awkward size, the Sam Kee Building has successfully housed several businesses throughout its operational history and also has its place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Ernest Roper
Membership Services Manager


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