About a decade ago, there was an emerging consensus that the city of Vancouver was experiencing a dearth of quality architecture in its bland sea of cookie cutter towers, covered with blue and seafoam green-coloured glass.
The debates led to city council’s decision in 2011 to revise its policy for higher buildings in the downtown Vancouver peninsula, effectively allowing taller towers on strategic sites if these structures “establish a significant and recognizable new benchmark for architectural creativity and excellence, while making a significant contribution to the beauty and visual power of the city’s skyline.”
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Those sites are located in the Central Business District, the western end of Georgia Street towards Stanley Park, and the northern ends of the Burrard Bridge, Cambie Bridge, and Granville Bridge, with the tower sites next to these bridgeheads acting as a visual “gateway” into the city centre.
As of 2020, many of these sites are under various stages of development, with international architects responsible for several of the so-called starchitectural designs.
And the development that has kicked off this architectural renaissance in the city is undoubtedly Vancouver House, recognized by CNN this week as one of 10 most anticipated buildings set to shape the world in 2020.
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In 2011, any existing or proposed building in Vancouver capturing international attention, for having any architectural, cultural, or economic merit through a broad, global lens, would have been an unimaginable feat.
This is how CNN described Westbank’s Vancouver House:
Twisting from a triangular base to a rectangular top, Vancouver House appears to defy the laws of engineering when viewed from afar.
It’s precisely the sort of eccentricity we’ve come to expect from Bjarke Ingels, the Danish architect who recently built a ski slope on top of a power plant in Copenhagen. But it’s also a smart response to various restrictions and regulations that limited the size of the tower’s footprint in downtown Vancouver.
The pixelated facade, also characteristic of Ingels’ work, helps to create deep-set balconies for residents in the 493-foot-tall tower.
Vancouver House topped out in 2019, and is slated to reach full completion later this year, including the opening of many of its commercial tenants. The new public realm beneath the bridge will be activated by 85,000 sq. ft. of ground-level retail and restaurant space, namely London Drugs, Fresh St. Market grocery store, and Momofuku Noodle Bar.
Five permanent container shipping retail units will also be placed at the entrances into this new public space, where an oversized chandelier public art sculpture spins three times daily.
Within the two triangular podium buildings, 90,000 sq. ft. of office space will be furnished into academic space for University Canada West. Approximately 3,400 students are expected to study at this new campus, providing regular foot traffic for the area.
The residential portion of the CAD $750-million project contains 375 market condominiums and 105 market rental homes.
Other architectural designs recognized by CNN include the New Museum of Western Australia in Perth, designed by architectural firms Hassell and OMA. It preserves the surrounding heritage, while also adding a 21st-century museum.
Another featured project is the USD $1-billion, 5.2-million-sq-ft Grand Egyptian Museum, which will be the new permanent home to tens of thousands of archaeological treasures, such as the entire contents of Tutankhamun’s tomb.
Hong Kong’s new M+ Museum in West Kowloon Cultural District, currently under construction on reclaimed land in Victoria Harbour, was also recognized. This cultural institution, designed by architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron, is set to have one of Asia’s most impressive collections of contemporary visual art.
In Dubai, the pavilion representing the city state of Singapore at Expo 2020 has been recognized for its showcase of dense urban greenery and energy-neutral design.
But one project was highlighted for its sheer notoriety — the perpetually delayed Berlin Brandenburg Airport.
The major international airport reached completion in 2012, but it did not open as nothing worked — not even the luggage carousels, escalators, elevators, automatic doors, and fire prevention systems. Over the years, German media have extensively covered the delays and cost overruns as a result of poor planning, execution, management, and corruption. The airport’s latest planned opening date, after expensive renovations and repairs, is sometime in Fall 2020.