11/17/2014 09:50 EST | Updated 01/17/2015 05:59 EST

B.C.'s best buildings reflect history, memories

The results are in for a contest seeking out the "best" building in British Columbia.

The Architecture Foundation of B.C. opened the contest to nominations in April, asking people to submit buildings they had an emotional attachment to, not just those with architectural merit.

The contest received over 400 submissions, which people were able to vote for online. A panel of judges met to choose the top contender in each of four regions, and People's Choice Awards were also given to the buildings with the most online votes.

David Hewitt, president of the Architecture Foundation of B.C., announced the winners on The Early Edition.

Lower Mainland: The Marine Building (Vancouver)

The Marine Building opened in 1930, an Art Deco-style skyscraper that, at the time, was the tallest building not only in Vancouver, but in the entire British Empire.

It's now overshadowed by tall glass buildings, but Hewitt says it reflects an important time and place in Vancouver's history.

The People's Choice Award for the Lower Mainland went to the Wing Sang building, the oldest building in Vancouver's Chinatown.

Condo marketer Bob Rennie recently restored the building, and it now acts as an art gallery for his collection.

Vancouver Island: The Empress Hotel (Victoria)

The Empress Hotel was the favourite, not only for the judges, but also for online voters, taking both the official title and the People's Choice Award as the best building on Vancouver Island.

​"I think everyone has fond memories of the Empress," says Hewitt, saying even if people have never stayed in the building, many go there for tea, or walk by it when they're near the waterfront in the capitol city.

Hewitt says while The Empress Hotel emerged the clear favourite, the provincial legislature and the Nanaimo Bastion were also  strong contenders.

Interior: Seabird Island School (Agassiz)

In laying out the ground rules for the contest, there was a heated debate over where the Lower Mainland ends, and where B.C.'s interior begins.

It was decided that Chilliwack would mark the east of the Lower Mainland, and Hewitt says it was a bit of a surprise that the winner for the interior region was so close to that border.

​The Seabird Island School was built in 1991, and is operated by the Seabird Island band.

Hewitt says the building pays homage to the area's Aboriginal heritage, and the placement and roof structure reflect the geographic location in a windy valley.

The People's Choice Award for the interior went to the Mission Hill Winery, which Hewitt says is a landmark for many people coming and going to the Kelowna area.

North: Dawson Creek Art Gallery

The building that houses the Dawson Creek Art Gallery was originally a grain elevator. Hewitt says the fondness people have of the building shows an attachment to history, and a nod to the industries that developed the province.

​Hewitt says that while some historic buildings are restored, the Art Gallery shows how a building can be re-purposed as a cultural hub, and gain a whole new life.

The People's Choice Award was a bit of a surprise in the North. A small, igloo shaped building, north of Smithers along Highway 16 took the title. 

Hewitt says while it may not be an architecturally significant structure, it has become a highway icon, and clearly has many people enamoured with it.