Designed to both reflect nature and to honor its surrounding envi-ronment, 400W.Georgia will create a unique and constantly changing experience for all who encounter it.
This is our first project working with Michael Sypkens and Esteban Ochogavia, formerly of Kengo Kuma and Associates, who are working along with our team here at Westbank, with our frequent collaborators Merrick Architecture as the local architects. The design brief was as follows: It has always bothered me that office buildings become cold, hollowed-out shells of themselves when everyone has gone home. So I asked the team to come up with an idea where the office building morphs into something else, such as a piece of sculpture. In this way it will always add to the vibrancy of the city, whether full of thousands of people or none. The second design brief was how to bring nature into our cities as our society becomes more urban? Nature is an essential part of our existence on this planet and we felt it was important to integrate nature into our project as a way of reminding people they are part of a living organism and of course, to incorpo-rate nature’s sheer beauty. You can see from the model and images how we have attempted to do that.
It was also important that the building reflect the changing nature of Vancouver’s economy, where the creative economy has blossomed. So we challenged the City of Vancouver, our design team, the structural engineers and the procurement team to design a building that could be built in half the time of a typical office building. Hence it will be our first complete steel construction, including core and superstructure.
When we asked Michael Sypkens and Esteban Ochogavia to rethink the design of 400W.Georgia, they knew they were being asked to think outside the box. Previous investigations on this site were no different than the typical background buildings all too prevalent in our city – conventional to the core, they are bound to become a lifeless shell, silent at night and unnoticeable by day. Granted that the site occupied a prominent corner in downtown Vancouver, the opportunity to ani-mate the city would remain unrealized.
Michael and Esteban’s brief study led to a completely different approach to the typical glass box. Rather than a single extrusion, they found that multiple, smaller extrusions could achieve the same density. The smaller extrusions became weightless glass cubes that were haphazardly placed on top of each other. To com-plement this aggregation of abstract cubes, we introduced verdant landscapes to unify the staggered aesthetic. As a result, the building evolved into a scaleless sculpture of cantilevering volumes and vertical gardens.
From the point of view of the tenant, a contemporary office tower is expected to offer full-height glazing, large open spans, and flexible interiors. The tenant does not expect to find glass floors overlooking the city, roof terraces under over-hanging volumes, and vertical gardens framing views of the mountains. All this is accomplished by rearranging, rather than abandoning, the conventional glass box.