Press: Westbank’s Vancouver House Tower ‘A Living Sculpture’

Felicity Stone, Special to the Sun | September 15, 2014 | Vancouver Sun

When some people ponder the word “unique”, they might imagine something that’s simply unusual, rather than one of a kind.

Vancouver House, a mixed-used project from Westbank that will rise next to the Granville Street Bridge, is truly the latter.

“The residential tower has a unique appearance that changes from every angle,” says the Vancouver House submission to the 2014 Rethinking the Future Awards, where it was recently awarded top honours in the Mixed-Use Concept category.

In response to the shape of the site, architect Bjarke Ingels designed a 59-storey tower that rises from a triangular base and gradually expands to a rectangle at the top. Box-shaped anodized aluminum balconies lined with copper create a textured facade; Vancouver House property associate Allen Oram describes it as pixelated. “If you stand back, you see more of the silver elements. As you get closer, then the copper elements come into view and sort of ignite that way. The light was meant to bounce off the copper and warm the homes. It is meant to be a living sculpture.”

Indeed, the Vancouver House website emphasizes the creativity of that architecture, noting the project represents “the most ambitious artwork that Westbank has commissioned.”

“Our guiding principle has been to make the design a live-in sculpture, its artfulness at all scales bringing visual splendor to daily living, and constantly inspiring its residents and visitors.”

Each of the 388 homes is also unique, with no two floor plans alike. Some are long and narrow; others are more square. Irregular outlines create interior nooks and alcoves. Sizes range from a 368-square-foot studio to a 3,034-square-foot four-bedroom home with a family room. Some homes include libraries, and even the smaller suites can include a family room or flex space.

A separate brochure for each suite includes the floor plan, the location in the building and a description of features specific to that home. “Westbank’s intention is to create a special, unique experience for everyone: every apartment differs from the other in shape and view,” says Kai-Uwe Bergmann, partner at the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG).

Since sales launched through the private reservation program on July 24, 75 per cent of the homes have sold, mostly to buyers from Vancouver. Sales to the general public will launch Sept. 21; these will include the just-released penthouses. (However, homes will still be available through the reservation program before the public launch.) “There’s a huge demand for a one-bedroom home in a luxury development in Vancouver, where you can have a one-bedroom home on a 45th floor at a penthouse level or higher in this neighbourhood,” Oram says. “From about the 35th floor and above, we have unobstructed views.” The larger homes are attracting downsizers from West Vancouver and Shaughnessy.

“With the total design philosophy at Vancouver House, there was a reconception of residential living, starting with the bold framing architecture, then continuing right down to the tiniest details inside,” Bergmann says. Custom details start at the front door. Instead of a conventional flat slab with a standard door handle, the BIG-designed entry door to each suite will be edged with a metal plate that acts as a door pull, while the door itself is scooped away behind it. For the “Estate” homes — on floors 47 to 59 — BIG created a sculptural kitchen island that echoes the curve of the tower “as a syncretism between exterior and interior,” Bergmann notes. Made of Corian, it will be available in white or charcoal grey, as will the matte-lacquer cabinets. BIG has collaborated with Kohler to design a series of plumbing fixtures, under wraps until 2018 to prevent knock-offs. Materials are luxurious, yet understated: engineered oak flooring, Corian or marble countertops, copper or marble backsplashes, marble or travertine bathroom tiles.

The balconies act as extensions of the living space and shade the interior so the building doesn’t overheat. Triple-glazed windows, hydronic heating and cooling and filtered air will contribute to indoor comfort. Filtered drinking water will flow from a separate kitchen faucet.

The residents’ lounge will be in an elevated box projecting off the face of the building and doubling as a weather-protection canopy for the main entrance. Residents will also enjoy access to a 25-metre heated rooftop pool, a landscaped terrace with seating, water feature and garden plots, a golf simulator, ultrafast elevators, 24-hour concierge service and access to a 10,000-square-foot fitness facility and to a fleet of BMWs.

There is more to Vancouver House than the residential tower. “It’s an entire urban village,” Oram says. “It’s about 3.1 acres, and it offers something for everyone.” Low triangle-shaped buildings clustered at the base and between the bridge ramps will house market rental apartments, 60,000 square feet of retail space and 80,000 square feet of office/work space. There are plans for a bicycle store, drugstore, liquor store, grocery store and multiple restaurants.

Art-filled lightboxes and a spinning chandelier designed by Rodney Graham will illuminate sheltered outdoor public venue space beneath the bridge. “It completely embraces the neighbourhood’s unique characteristics by animating the underside of the bridge and ramps by engaging the public realm turning a blight in the city into a dynamic public place,” notes the submission to Rethinking the Future.

Vancouver House residents will also be connected to the global community through World Housing, which helps build houses for Third World families living in garbage dumps. For every suite purchased at Vancouver House, a new home will be donated to a family in Cambodia. Strengthening the connection, each Vancouver House resident will be able to meet the family it assisted, either on paper or online.

Vancouver House

Project size: 333 Architect Series homes, 50 estate homes and five penthouses

Height: 525 feet, 59 floors

Address: 1460 Howe St., Vancouver

Residence size: Studio/one-bedroom flex to four bedrooms, 368 — 3,034 sq. ft.

Prices: From $549,800

Sales centre: 1460 Howe St., Vancouver

Hours: 11 a.m. — 6 p.m. Friday — Sunday

Telephone: 604-893-8958

Developer: Westbank

Architect and interior designer: Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)


Warranty: 2/5/10 home warranty

Completion: 2018

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