Vancouver house's architecture is not the result of formal excess or architectural idiosyncrasies, but rather a child of its properties. - Bjarke Ingels, founding partner, BIG

Experience it
Introduction
1. Introduction
The Gesamtkunstwerk show opens up the design, context and background of Vancouver House to public understanding with powerful visuals and commentary, showing how "Total Design" can transform contemporary high rise residential living through the synthesis of art, architecture, interior design, urbanism and energy with public-mindedness.
Introduction
1:07
Building photograph in greyscale
10. Arthur Erickson
A visionary 1955 sketch, then two boldly inventive buildings by Arthur Erickson set our downtown city-building agenda for the next half century – signs of things to come.
A new building typology
2:01
Building photograph in greyscale
21. Residences on Georgia

Photographs by James Cheng, courtesy of James k.M. Cheng Architects, Vancouver.

20. Memes

First at the foot of Howe at Beach Street, then with subsequent developments in Yaletown and Coal Harbour, James K.M. Cheng invents the combination of thin residential high rise with continuous townhouse base, the “tower and podium typology” now recognized by architects and developers around the world.

Evolving
Evolving
31. Vancouver House building structure

Massing and building typology early design studies by BIG. These cartoon-like drawings explain the thinking behind the ultimate shape for the Vancouver House tower.

30. Vancouver House Massing
The challenges and potentials of the Beach and Howe site required fresh thinking, a radical design evolution for the shape and structural form of Vancouver residential towers.
Structural Design
2:15
Building photograph in greyscale
40. Vancouverism 2.0
First at the foot of Howe at Beach Street, then with subsequent developments in Yaletown and Coal Harbour, James K.M. Cheng invents the combination of thin residential high rise with continuous townhouse base, the “tower and podium typology” now recognized by architects and developers around the world.
Beach district
51. False Creek public space
Beach district
50. Granville Island + Bridge
Vancouver house is designed to be catalytic in forming a new neighbourhood netsled under the big bridge’s arching frame - an updated sibling to beloved sister place Granville Island, across False Creek.
The Beach district
1:44
Beach district
Beach district
61. Rodney Graham's public art
60. Westbank's commitment to public art
In a class of its own as a development industry patron of creativity, Westbank has embraced demanding, avant-garde work by the world’s finest artists, using its projects as vast canvases.
Rodney Graham's public art
1:30
Definitive architecture
Definitive architecture
70. Vancouver House aesthetic 71. Vancouver House elevation details
The final forms for Vancouver House are the product not of artistic whimsy, but rather creative problem-solving within the particular constraints of this unique site by Big’s design team.
Outside-in
81. BIG's interior design process
Outside-in
80. BIG design process
The architecture, interiors and urban design are all expressions of the same design principles, and link one to the other: Gesamtkunstwerk in application.
Footprint
91. Green Features
Footprint
90. Vancouver House place in the skyline 92. Creative Energy
The big picture is complete as Vancouver house finds its home in the skyline, its green features and connection to a leading-edge district energy system all ahead of the curve. Vancouver House will achieve the highest level of sustainability compared to any high rise in the world including a connection to a leading edge community system.
A moment in Vancouver's skyline
1:09
Citizenship
Citizenship
Citizenship
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The Exhibition

From a never-before publicly-shown Arthur Erickson 1955 sketch that set the agenda for Vancouverism, to renderings, models and videos illustrating the most adventurous building here in decades, the Gesamtkunstwerk exhibition explores the thinking behind contemporary city-building. Designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) of New York and Copenhagen, this residential tower will rise above the north end of the Granville Bridge, with its adjacent low-rise retail and office buildings defining the new Beach District neighbourhood. The show opens up the design, context and background of Vancouver House to public understanding with powerful visuals and commentary, showing how "Total Design" can transform contemporary high rise residential living through the synthesis of art, architecture, interior design, urbanism and energy with public-mindedness.

Manifesto

This exhibition and this catalogue document the evolution of our citybuilding practice. This evolution has progressed over two decades, beginning with Residences on Georgia, progressing through the Shangri-La Vancouver and Toronto, the Woodward’s re-development, the Fairmont Pacific Rim then our recent acquisition of Vancouver’s Central Heat. These large, complex mixed-use developments all share an emphasis on the integration of public art, and building them has allowed us to mature into a more well-rounded practice. Longterm commitments to sustainability and the integration of art into innovative architecture, and now the re-imagining of Vancouver’s energy infrastructure have compelled us towards thinking about our projects as more than just buildings, but rather, opportunities to shape the entire build-out of the city.

It was in this context that I discovered the word and philosophy behind “gesamtkunstwerk,” and came to the belief that it best represents a guiding philosophy for all of our projects, current and future. The key concept here is taking the idea of the total work of art to a whole new scale – applying this philosophy to solve problems and create opportunities for enlightened city-building.

This matters because the future of our community, our country – in fact, all countries – rests on the success of cities. Vancouver, being one of the world’s more successful urban experiments, has led this evolution towards enlightened city-building. Cities have become the economy’s driving force in the Information Age. Along with that has come an inversion of the hierarchy of power; cities work because ideas come out of them. For Westbank, adopting a building mission around the concept of a total work of art evolves naturally out of the record documented in our book, Building Artistry. It has now become the core philosophy of everything that we do.

If “gesamtkunstwerk” is our philosophy, then Vancouver House is its manifestation. Vancouver House has the potential to become one of the most watched and studied urban development projects under way today. Seven years in the making, we brought everything that we have learned through dozens of complex projects, with the best design and consultant team that could be assembled. We hope that this cumulative intelligence results in Vancouver House taking a giant leap forward – not only from technical and sustainability perspectives – but as for all of our projects, that its artistry remains paramount.

- Ian Gillespie

The Presenter

From a never-before publicly-shown Arthur Erickson 1955 sketch that set the agenda for Vancouverism, to renderings, models and videos illustrating the most adventurous building here in decades, the Gesamtkunstwerk exhibition explores the thinking behind contemporary city-building. Designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) of New York and Copenhagen, this residential tower will rise above the north end of the Granville Bridge, with its adjacent low-rise retail and office buildings defining the new Beach District neighbourhood. The show opens up the design, context and background of Vancouver House to public understanding with powerful visuals and commentary, showing how "Total Design" can transform contemporary high rise residential living through the synthesis of art, architecture, interior design, urbanism and energy with public-mindedness.

Exhibition Credits

VANCOUVER HOUSE DESIGNERS BIG in Association With Dialog

CURATOR + CATALOGUE EDITOR: Trevor Boddy

INSTALLATION DESIGNERS BIG: Edward Yung, Francesca Portesine, Agustin Perez-Torres, Barbara Sprkova, Spencer Hayden

PARTNER IN CHARGE, BIG: Thomas Christofferson, Graphic Designers, Zacharko Design, Terrance Zacharko, Robin Oshiro

AUDIO GUIDE: Acoustiguide

AUDIO/VISUAL: Maximum Project

PROJECT 56 DRAWING: Professor Linda Fraser, Special Collections, Canadian Architectural Archive, University of Calgary

PUBLIC ART: Rodney Graham, Reid Shier

MODEL PHOTOGRAPHY: James K.M. Cheng, Colin Goldie

VIDEOGRAPHY: Dave Hamilton Photography, Dave Hamilton, Francois Latremoille, Thierry Latremoille, Gregor Phillips, Louvens Remy, Guy Roland

PRINT PRODUCTION: Metropolitan Fine Printers, Multigraphics

CONTRACTOR: City Wide Building