When leaders at First Baptist Church, at Nelson and Burrard, interviewed local developers to decide on a partner to build a condo skyscraper on their land, it was Ian Gillespie who most impressed them. His conviction that a building must be more than just a structure—that every building is a contribution to the fabric of a dynamic, well-functioning urban environment—is what swayed them.
True to that philosophy, Gillespie is imaginatively re-creating the city at dazzling speed these days. His massive Vancouver House project, woven around the north end of the Granville Bridge, breaks downtown’s repetitive pattern of thin, straight-line glass towers with a design by Danish superstar architect Bjarke Ingels. Gillespie’s firm, Westbank, just completed the Telus Gardens office and condo tower and commissioned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma for another tower on Georgia. Gillespie steered the massive Oakridge shopping mall re-development (which will create a mini-city at 41st and Cambie) through city approvals.
And then there are the major Westbank projects in Toronto, Seattle, and Hawaii. That would be more than a full plate for most developers. But Gillespie also bought Vancouver’s downtown steam-heat power plant and is transforming it into a low-carbon energy generator that will service dozens of new buildings on the downtown peninsula. And he’s building a social and market-rental housing project in Blood Alley.
No developer has a more diverse range of partners, and no one has had a more profound influence on Vancouver this year.