Step aside stale, staid and unimaginative. There’s a new word in town to describe Vancouver architecture: exemplar.
That is the term international judges used to describe Vancouver House, which snagged Future Project of the Year at the World Architectural Festival in Singapore this week.
The twisting building under construction at Howe Street and Beach Avenue “generates an exemplar new urban typology,” judges said.
“It is a delightful project that will impact positively on many future municipality- and developer-led agendas for cities across the world.”
It may take a moment for that to sink in. A Vancouver building is set to influence world architecture.
Then again, maybe it shouldn’t come as such a surprise. After all, the planned 59-storey Westbank tower is designed by Bjarke Ingels, a Copenhagen-based firm that has conjured up inspirational projects around the world.
Calgary’s Telus Sky Tower, VIA 57 West in Manhattan and the Hualien Residences in Taiwan are just a sample of the firm’s visually stunning projects that are under construction. It also has a raft of completed and proposed projects that — like Vancouver House — push the boundaries of architectural design.
Leslie Van Duzer, a professor at University of B.C.’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, said the award was great news for the developer and the city.
“Vancouver House represents the confluence of an enlightened planner, a visionary developer and an architect who makes a practice of turning society’s detritus (in this case, a site with sprawling off-ramps) into gold. Such rare alchemy is most worthy of this significant global prize,” Van Duzer said in a written statement.
“Vancouver, long known for its exemplary urban planning, may yet earn a sustained place on the world stage for its architecture.”
Vancouver House’s unique design comes in part thanks to the awkward plot of land it is being built on. A 30-metre setback from Granville Street Bridge left the company a triangular base of just a few thousand square feet to work with.
About a dozen floors up, the building gradually expands into a rectangle, increasing its square footage while creating the appearance of a twist.
Ian Gillespie, the president of Westbank, called Bjarke Ingels’ architecture “an evolutionary moment in Vancouver’s design history.”
“This is an incredible win for Vancouver House and Vancouver; it recognizes our vision for city-building. Every city needs to have a few special moments that take your breath away, and Vancouver has lacked that until now,” he said in a news release.
Before the building was named project of the year, it beat competing residential projects from cities around the world for top prize in that category. Among the entrants was Nelson on the Park, a design for a residential tower at Nelson Street between Burrard and Thurlow streets in Vancouver’s West End.
The design features a rooftop pool and patio covered by airy, transparent cubes of what appear to be glass and mirrors.
Other entrants in the category are planned for or under development in cities on nearly every continent.
Judges at the World Architectural Festival include architects who have won festival awards in the past and peer-respected industry professionals, according to the festival.
City employees were not available to comment on the award, but the city’s planning and development branch released a brief statement: “The award is a wonderful recognition of the changing face of Vancouver.”