A New Headquarters For Architectural Excellence In Vancouver Wins Urban Design Panel Support

1980 Foley Street – Lululemon Store Support Centre
It might be long overdue for some serious reform, but I appreciate the Urban Design Panel as it continues to teach me a lot about our city. For instance, I had no idea the same guidelines that shaped the Emily Carr University of Art and Design were used to regulate the proposed headquarters for this locally-grown fashion giant. Which explains why city council allowed this application to be considered, despite the rezoning freeze in the Broadway Corridor.

This site is obviously unique, as easements for the Broadway SkyTrain extension, bike lanes to the south and west, and to commemorate China Creek (pg 12), meant the permitted 583,000 sq. ft. floor-area was unobtainable. That’s because the resulting 67, 000 square feet floor plates were considered inhospitable by city staff and the applicant team, so the only choice was to go higher. Still, even after chopping away the building’s corners to provide better views for neighbours, the company wanted more for their employees.

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I’m not sure if they were inspired by Vancouver’s philosophy of creating places for people to live, work and play in, but the planned cafe, restaurant, and yoga studio on the ground will do just that. They also understood the need for daylight in our rainy climate, as the brise soleil material won’t look solid, but in a tribute to the company, have satin-like finish that will be 50% transparent.

However, the biggest source of light will be the covered atrium, who’s large size would have comprised 15% of the floor plates. It seems the applicant has a bit of freedom in how they craft that area, as city staff acknowledged there’s no existing policy to govern a space that large, forcing them to use a “rubber band rule.” This didn’t seem to matter, as the panel strongly supported all of these large moves.

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Many thought this would become a landmark building, and also hoped it would be a catalyst for the future. Not only did they feel it would allow for better land use between here and the university, they strongly believed it would elevate a higher design standard across the city. One member noted they were familiar with the design team as they had studied in California, but were cautious about their handling of the brise soleil material.

Yet other self-described fans of the architect were completely supportive, and the consensus was strongly supportive of this “very well done, sophisticated” concept. Of course, even with their unanimous support, very few projects escape the UDP without any recommendations, and this one was no exception. While there was praise from the treatment of the public realm, a few members felt more needed to be done. As one person put it, there should be more weather protection as we’re not Toronto.

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As residents in both cities continue to embrace biking to work, there was a suggestion to add more bike parking, and provide skylights to the parkade so it could offer other uses in the future. This didn’t make it into the recommendations, but another large request did. The east facade was described as a shallow veener which should be reconsidered to increase the porosity to the exterior ground plain, even if it meant relocating elevator and mechanical shafts.

The desire to improve the lives of the roughly four thousand people (pg 3) who will work here was paramount, and the eagle eye of one member led to a recommendation that should accomplish this. After all, whether it’s located on a roof deck or elsewhere in the building, more childcare services is a resource desperately needed in our city. It also proves how of much of an impact one person can have, so make sure to leave your comments here.

Applicant Team Information:

Developer Lululemon Athletica inc.
ArchitectsMorphosis Architects
Local Architects – Francl Architecture Inc.
Interior Architects – Clive Wilkinson Architects

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