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Unique design elements make Telus Garden the most contemporary new office building in the city.
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Telus Garden on West Georgia is one of the great new buildings going up in downtown Vancouver. It’s the one with the distinctive cantilevered sections jutting out over Richards and Seymour. It reminds me of the funny way a scratch would make DVDs (remember them?) go wonky and graft a pixellated glitch onto an image. Except in this case the glitch is made physical – and, of course, much bigger. 

The building’s modernist grid is still present but it’s been violated with the projections over the street and in the building’s facade. They make Telus Garden the most contemporary new office building in the city.

The design and master plan for the $750 million project are by Vancouver’s Henriquez Partners Architects.

The distinctive projections of the building encroach on public space over the sidewalk and street. On the Richards Street side, the building extends 6.5 metres onto the street and takes up 104 square metres of public space – it maybe nothing but air but it’s still public, not private. On the Seymour side, it extends 7.3 metres onto the street and takes up 117 sq. m.

So does a multi-million dollar multinational corporation get all that public space for nothing? No, not at all. It has to pay.

According to the City of Vancouver, Telus will have an annual bill of $5,100 for leasing the Seymour air space and $4,500 for the Richards encroachment – as it’s termed in city-hall-speak. That works out to $9,600 a year.

Telus Garden has also taken over the short lane that used to be behind White Spot. But instead of leasing the 214 square metres from the city, Telus bought it for $115,250. All the money went into the city’s Property Development Fund.

But it does make me wonder if developers and/or architects have discovered a potential realm of public space for future development. What I’m thinking of is all the space over the public realm downtown: the streets and sidewalks. If you look at it from a developer’s point of view, could that space be purchased above a certain level – say four or five storeys – and incorporated into a development that spanned across the street from one block to another?

Think of what Vancouver House has done with the vertical space on its site. That’s the 52-storey tower by the Granville Street Bridge (the one marketed initially under the name Gesamtkunstwerk) designed by Bjarke Ingels Architects. Westbank Projects Corp is the developer of Telus Garden and Vancouver House.

When I described Vancouver House as a twisting tower to Ingels, he corrected me. He said it isn’t twisting but expanding from a triangle base into a rectangular top. The design cleverly found ‘unused’ vertical space. Is something similar going on with Telus Garden but on a smaller scale?

The city report of three years ago said only that “The extent of the Building Projections onto the street is significant and uncommon particularly for the private building components but they have been considered carefully in this case due to prominence of the project.

“The impact on views down the street were assessed by City planners and found to be acceptable.”

So it doesn’t look like the public space over sidewalks and streets are going to be leased or sold anytime soon. But who knows; if real estate prices continue to increase, the pressure to develop so-called ‘unused’ or ‘empty’ space will continue to grow.

Public art is a part of Telus Garden. The building will include LED lighting on the projecting western facade which can show pre-programmed images. A media wall where cultural events “such as symphony concerts can be broadcast,” according to the Henriquez Partners‘ website.

Read full article online at the Vancouver Sun.