A stunning 59-storey architectural wonder has launched Vancouver into the global league of “super prime” real estate.
Vancouver House, yet to break ground at the foot of the Granville Bridge and already more than 90 per cent sold, promises to be a defining architectural moment on Vancouver’s skyline.
“We are surprised at the attention this building has received around the world. People have never seen a building that looks like this. They’re really drawn to the architecture,” says Michael Braun, marketing director of Westbank Projects Corp., developer and builder of Vancouver House. Westbank has more than $12 billion in real estate projects currently under development or completed, including the five-star Fairmont Pacific Rim on Vancouver’s waterfront.
But never has the company been identified with a project ranked as “super prime,” comparable to the best high-design residential buildings in New York, London, Singapore, Paris, Geneva, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Shanghai.
Architectural phenom Bjarke Ingels, named “Innovator of the Year” by the Wall Street Journal, was brought in by Westbank founder and president Ian Gillespie when his team couldn’t reconcile their vision for a condo tower at the north end of the Granville Bridge with the odd-shaped piece of land available. Ingels and his team at Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) of Copenhagen and New York started with a 6,000-square-foot classic ‘flatiron’ design and added square feet as the building went higher, twisting it into a 14,000-square foot, four-sided building offering spectacular views.
To the observer driving into downtown Vancouver from the airport, the concrete, glass and copper edifice will appear like a curtain drawn back to reveal the city beyond. In addition to calling upon the inspiration of the flatiron, Ingels did his homework and capitalized on the work of Canada’s most respected architect, Arthur Erickson, whose ideas in urban architecture spawned the term Vancouverism.
“In this form of urbanism, we see modernist highrises shaped organically in harmony with the mountains in the background and with large terraces to extend modern life to the outside,” Ingels explains. The BIG team remained true to Erickson’s vision of the “slender tower rising from the pedestrian streetscape,” while coming up with the solution to Westbank’s design challenge.
“We saw it as an evolution of the flatiron of New York, a building shaped from the triangulation of Broadway and the New York City grid, except we allow the building facade to expand as it departed the dense neighbourhood, and unfold in the sky surrounded by the view of the mountains and the abundance of daylight,” Ingels says.
There will be 333 suites, 50 estate homes and five penthouses, from as small as a 368-square-foot studio/one-bedroom flex to a 3,034-square-foot four-bedroom home with a family room. Braun says Westbank has adopted the philosophy of “Gesamtkunstwerk” — German for “total work of art” — to their practice. As such, the entire building is considered a living, breathing piece of art. For example, no two floor plans in Vancouver House are alike — every suite is custom-built. Every element of the building, from the copper-clad exterior and twice-the-size terraces, to the mirrored hallways and even the “floating” mailboxes, has been considered and designed. It is most certainly a creative departure from the cookie-cutter, yawn-inducing style of traditional multi-family building design.
Vancouver House promises on-site Five Star concierge service available 24-hours a day with advanced security technology in every corner of the building, a wellness centre that will offer programs, classes and services conducted by a private contractor, a 25-metre rooftop heated lap pool and a fleet of i3 and i8 model BMWs shared by owners and maintained by the concierge.
Behind the walls, each home will have access to carbon-filtered outdoor air, filtered water and a top-end hydronic heating and cooling system. The lower pavilions of Vancouver House will have rooftop lawns and green space, lowering energy costs and offering inspiring views from above. Westbank will apply the “total design” philosophy to the neighbourhood, with plans to enliven the area under the Granville Bridge with retail and cultural development along with public art, including a “spinning chandelier” by artist Rodney Graham.
Ingels refers to the future underside of the Granville Bridge as the “Sistine Chapel of street art.”
Braun says quite a few Calgarians are among the many buyers at home and abroad who will live in Vancouver House, at least part of the year.
“I would say that the driving factor is obviously the weather and the proximity. And there isn’t as much residential development in downtown Calgary as there is in Vancouver,” Braun says.
“This is very much an end-user product. We have a lot of people who didn’t consider condo living before, but this building drew them to consider it.”
Vancouver House will be ready for occupancy in 2018.