UK firm designs tree-inspired towers for Vancouver proposal (RENDERINGS)

Jan 12 2021, 2:32 am

Heatherwick Studio is behind a tree-inspired mixed-use redevelopment with two towers in downtown Vancouver’s West End, with the goal of breaking Vancouver’s longstanding conventional form of glass towers.

The renowned architectural firm, based in London, UK, is responsible for notable designs such as the London 2012 Olympic Cauldron, the new Routemaster double-decker bus for Transport For London, and the Vessel in New York City.

The project is now coming to light as Bosa Properties and Kingswood Properties have submitted a rezoning application for their land assembly at 1728 Alberni Street and 735 Bidwell Street — the southwest corner of the intersection of Alberni Street and Bidwell Street.

Currently, the site is occupied by a 1986-built, nine-storey strata residential building at 735 Bidwell Street, and a 1987-built, four-storey strata residential complex at 1728 Alberni Street.

1700 alberni street vancouver

Site of 1728 Alberni Street and 735 Bidwell Street, Vancouver. (Google Maps)

1728 alberni street 735 bidwell street vancouver

Site of 1728 Alberni Street and 735 Bidwell Street, Vancouver. (Heatherwick Studio/IBI Group/Bosa Properties/Kingswood Properties)

The proposal calls for a 385-ft-tall, 34-storey west tower and a 345-ft-tall, 30-storey east tower with 401 condominium homes. The unit mix is 12 studios, 160 one-bedroom units, 199 two-bedroom units, and 30 units with at least three bedrooms.

Residents will have access to various amenity spaces, including a 15,000-sq-ft amenity space — such as a swimming pool, fitness rooms, and residential lounge — in the upper levels of the podium.

Within the first two levels of the building, there will be 14,700 sq ft of retail and restaurant space and a 4,100-sq-ft childcare facility with a capacity for up to 24 children.

1728 alberni street 735 bidwell street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1728 Alberni Street and 735 Bidwell Street, Vancouver. (Heatherwick Studio/IBI Group/Bosa Properties/Kingswood Properties)

1728 alberni street 735 bidwell street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1728 Alberni Street and 735 Bidwell Street, Vancouver. (Heatherwick Studio/IBI Group/Bosa Properties/Kingswood Properties)

The podium levels are focused around a four-storey atrium — a sculpturally formed internal public plaza — within a curving structure that splits open the podium base, creating an active and lively new amenity for the city activated by the commercial spaces.

The residential lobby spaces to both towers are also accessed from this covered plaza, which has been named “The Yard.” A skylight on the podium rooftop draws in natural light into space, and the proponents have indicated structural timber could be used for the podium.

1728 alberni street 735 bidwell street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1728 Alberni Street and 735 Bidwell Street, Vancouver. (Heatherwick Studio/IBI Group/Bosa Properties/Kingswood Properties)

1728 alberni street 735 bidwell street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1728 Alberni Street and 735 Bidwell Street, Vancouver. (Heatherwick Studio/IBI Group/Bosa Properties/Kingswood Properties)

1728 alberni street 735 bidwell street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1728 Alberni Street and 735 Bidwell Street, Vancouver. (Heatherwick Studio/IBI Group/Bosa Properties/Kingswood Properties)

“It’s difficult to have a positive emotional connection with a huge flat building. Our curving structure breaks-down the mass of the building into a human scale, dividing its long facades vertically into segments that provide more punctuation at street level,” reads the design rationale, which notes the layer of urban greenery on the podium turns it into a “green mountain.”

“Too often, towers are monolithic and cut-off from the street life, which is the lifeblood of the West End. Our aim was to create towers that intersect with the ground-level at a human scale, inviting interaction with the wider city community, creating a vibrant social hub for residents and visitors alike. By creating our scheme for the towers from the ground up, not tower down, we saw an opportunity to engage the ground-level as active social spaces by carving out some of the mass at the base of the towers.”

1728 alberni street 735 bidwell street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1728 Alberni Street and 735 Bidwell Street, Vancouver. (Heatherwick Studio/IBI Group/Bosa Properties/Kingswood Properties)

1728 alberni street 735 bidwell street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1728 Alberni Street and 735 Bidwell Street, Vancouver. (Heatherwick Studio/IBI Group/Bosa Properties/Kingswood Properties)

1728 alberni street 735 bidwell street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1728 Alberni Street and 735 Bidwell Street, Vancouver. (Heatherwick Studio/IBI Group/Bosa Properties/Kingswood Properties)

1728 alberni street 735 bidwell street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1728 Alberni Street and 735 Bidwell Street, Vancouver. (Heatherwick Studio/IBI Group/Bosa Properties/Kingswood Properties)

1728 alberni street 735 bidwell street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1728 Alberni Street and 735 Bidwell Street, Vancouver. (Heatherwick Studio/IBI Group/Bosa Properties/Kingswood Properties)

Emerging from the “mountains” are tree-inspired towers, denoted by structural blades that curve and extend outwards to create natural light and airflow into the lower levels and the streetscape.

This structural and facade system of blades and folds creates larger balconies, and the protruding terraces also have in-built planters along the edge to form a major part of the building’s rainwater management strategy.

“Inspiration from the natural landscape of the area led us to an organic form that would work harmoniously with its backdrop of inspiring mountains and natural parks. We wanted to avoid the conventional high-rise typology that feels alien and disconnected,” continues the design rationale.

“Using the tree as our inspiration, we saw that the roots have a direct relationship with the top of the tree, no matter how tall it grows. Starting with the concept of large mature tree roots, we developed the idea of gently curving vertical structures that connect the public on the ground floor to the top of the towers.”

1728 alberni street 735 bidwell street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1728 Alberni Street and 735 Bidwell Street, Vancouver. (Heatherwick Studio/IBI Group/Bosa Properties/Kingswood Properties)

1728 alberni street 735 bidwell street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1728 Alberni Street and 735 Bidwell Street, Vancouver. (Heatherwick Studio/IBI Group/Bosa Properties/Kingswood Properties)

The tower’s heights are curbed by mountain view cone height restrictions, with view cone 20.1 and 20.2 from the intersection of West Broadway and Granville Street limiting the west tower’s height. The west tower is stepped back at level 34 to avoid view cone 20.1, which cuts out about half of the usable floor plate for the top six levels. The tower also needs to step back in the opposite direction on level 39 to avoid shadowing Devonian Park.

For the east tower, not only is its height limited by view cone 20.2, there is an additional height restriction consideration that requires the building be stepped back from level 29 upwards — resulting in its inability to reach its maximum permitted height under the view cone — to minimize shadowing on Marina Square Park. This stepping back reduces the floor plate to about a quarter of its typical size.

1728 alberni street 735 bidwell street vancouver

Impact of height restrictions from mountain view cones 20.1 and 20.2 on 1728 Alberni Street and 735 Bidwell Street, Vancouver. (Heatherwick Studio/IBI Group/Bosa Properties/Kingswood Properties)

1728 alberni street 735 bidwell street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1728 Alberni Street and 735 Bidwell Street, Vancouver, in relation to area redevelopments. (Heatherwick Studio/IBI Group/Bosa Properties/Kingswood Properties)

1728 alberni street 735 bidwell street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1728 Alberni Street and 735 Bidwell Street, Vancouver. (Heatherwick Studio/IBI Group/Bosa Properties/Kingswood Properties)

The redevelopment’s total floor area is 423,428 sq. ft., creating a floor space ratio density of 10.88 times the size of the 39,000 sq. ft. lot. Seven underground levels will provide 524 vehicle parking stalls and 524 bike parking spaces.

This is the latest project for the area in and around the northwest corner of the West End neighbourhood, near its border with Coal Harbour. Higher density forms are permitted in this area under the city’s West End Community Plan.

Bosa and Kingswood previously conducted an internal international design competition for the project that resulted in the selection of this British design. Another design surfaced in September 2020, but it was not selected for further planning work to advance into the formal application stage.

1728 alberni street 735 bidwell street vancouver

1728 alberni street 735 bidwell street vancouver

Model of 1728 Alberni Street and 735 Bidwell Street, Vancouver. (Heatherwick Studio/IBI Group/Bosa Properties/Kingswood Properties)

1728 alberni street 735 bidwell street vancouver

Ground floor plan of 1728 Alberni Street and 735 Bidwell Street, Vancouver. (Heatherwick Studio/IBI Group/Bosa Properties/Kingswood Properties)

1728 alberni street 735 bidwell street vancouver

Layout of 1728 Alberni Street and 735 Bidwell Street, Vancouver. (Heatherwick Studio/IBI Group/Bosa Properties/Kingswood Properties)

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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