In Search Of A Proper Crown – Vancouver’s UDP Supports World’s Tallest Passive House

1059-1075 Nelson Street
Perhaps it is fitting that a building which required a “Super” Urban Design Panel review under the Higher Buildings Policy, also needed both Darren and I to recap it. Due to a prior commitment, he had to leave as the panel began their deliberation, and I arrived just before they gave their opinion. As that process took far longer, it fell to me to write this post.

In truth, the meeting was longer than normal as city staff encouraged the panel to discuss this rezoning proposal’s finer details given its prominence in the skyline. That said, only one person felt height was an issue, as the tower did not “zang” and needed more “zip.” Some felt every building in the area was screaming for attention, something one described as the “Dubai Effect,” even though none of these place among that city’s top 175 tallest.

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To improve its presence. the majority believed the crown needed more attention, as it was not worthy of a world leading design. Some were worried the current design may shadow Lord Roberts Annex, while a lone panelist was more concerned it might shade the north sidewalk of Robson Street. Either way, it did not come as a surprise when a recommendation was made to sculpt this element to improve its appearance.

According to Darren, city staff seemed more concerned the depth and width of the floor plates slightly exceed the city’s guidelines at their largest points. Several panellists agreed this was an issue, and believed the building should “go on a diet.” Others praised this element for hiding the bulky form most passive house projects have to take on. Like us, a few wanted this wave form to continue on through the base of the building.

Some suggested this slimming could be accomplished if the gap in the building’s centre was narrowed. Generally, there was appreciation for how this allowed light into the building, but many were not convinced it would be successful. Early on, one person made it clear that, with these issues, there was no way they could support the application.

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Ultimately, the recommendations called for further consideration of this gap and its functionality in terms of meeting its own, and the city’s, sustainability objectives. Still, given the small size of the property, it was the ground plane, amenity spaces, and public realm that drew the most concern. I do not think anyone felt a 1 meter right of way was enough of a public contribution, nor was there any appreciation for locating the children’s play area along the lane.

One member’s solution was for the applicant to provide public realm improvements off-site, either at an existing park or a new location, which won broad support. Similarly, others wanted more resident amenity space on site, despite one person who wanted the amenity deck removed as it “just bugged them.” The chair felt confidant city staff would require the applicant address these issues, as they formed the final set of recommendations.

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This additional language called on the applicant to explore the option of a public amenity, and to explore utilizing the rooftop to provide more amenity space. Last but not least, they recommended more design development of the public realm to improve the relationship to its surroundings, and to the children in the area. Before they voted, the applicant acknowledged these were issues they had struggled with, and felt a better project would come from addressing them.

I lack Darren’s experience with the UDP, so I thought this lengthy list meant there might be a motion for resubmission. Instead, all but the aforementioned panellist voted to support the proposal moving forward. Whether you have your own suggestions, or want to add your voice to the panel’s support, the applicant is clearly listening, so make sure your comments are heard by leaving them here.

Applicant Team Information:

Developer Henson Developments
ArchitectsWKK Architects
Local Architects – IBI Group
Passive House Consultants – RDH Building Science and ITC Construction Group

2 thoughts on “In Search Of A Proper Crown – Vancouver’s UDP Supports World’s Tallest Passive House

Add yours

  1. I liked the original rectangular tower better. It complemented The Butterfly better, was more orinal and elegant, and had less of an ‘imitation Toronto’ feel than this one, although I will admit it is impressive nonetheless, and will be an impressive skyline addition.

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