Refined Humility Guides The New St. Paul’s Hospital To Urban Design Panel Support

1002 Station St – New St. Paul’s Hospital (DP-2021-00085) Phase 1A – Revised Concept
Apparently I’m not the only person tired of seeing the Urban Design Panel examine the new St. Paul’s Hospital, as city staff started this event by expressing hope it would go faster than the last review. That meeting concluded with a request for this facilities resubmission, and led to several charrettes and workshops with various civic departments, and the hospital’s ownership. Which left this design team with the task of summarizing about ninety pages of changes into a quick presentation.

That’s something Hannah and I can certainly sympathize with, but the teacher within one panellist couldn’t abide the numerous spelling and grammar mistake that booklet contained. As the Architectural Institute of British Columbia’s guidelines for this process were updated in February, that would be the only criticism of subjects not raised at the previous meeting (pg 9 6.7.1). This meant comments were limited to whether previously identified critiques had been resolved, and generally that proved to be the case.

The summary reflected strong appreciation for the responses their comments had elicited, with the addition of roughly 325 trees drawing pure love from one member. Yet that wasn’t enough for a few others, who were disappointed their desire for more greenery on the rooftops hadn’t been achieved. A landscape architect bluntly stated they’ve never worked on a hospital that couldn’t have vegetation due to air vents, and noted there were plenty of trees around the helipad at Women’s and Children’s.

The design team countered that they couldn’t speak to other institution’s needs, and the requirements here meant they actually had to scale back their original vision, which exceeded this rendition. Still, they humbly valued the advice they had received, and sought to clarify the group’s guidance on the building’s appearance. Though these volunteers were thrilled to see their previous instruction to break up its flatness and imposing nature were implemented, they felt more could be done with a little less.

The call to further simplify these materials didn’t apply to the louvers for the various mechanical, and medical services on the lower levels as they appreciated the various perforated patterns. While they suggested more work was needed, especially to the roofline, the windows on the west façade were seen as a step in the right direction. That’s why some wanted to expand this band so it could encircle the entire structure like the wellness walk does at the ground level.

That aspect was seen as “infinitely more successful,” as it has been divided into four zones to respond to the conditions on each side of the hospital, and reflect the area’s history. The treatment of the southern edge is particularly noteworthy, as the advice to incorporate a raised deck to overlook the rail yards had actually been followed. This care and attention was praised for creating plenty character, unique experiences, and places to rest, albeit in need of more weaving.

Gone were fears that visitors, and patients would struggle to find their way across this campus, as the inclusion of heavy timber, and larger canopies had ensured the entrances were well-marked. There were those that would have liked to see further transparency with more glass, and one believed the St. Paul’s Hospital signage should be displayed more prominently, either at the southwest corner or elsewhere. However, most appreciated that the chapel appearance at the main entrance had been dialed back.

An architect lamented similar stonework should have been used elsewhere, as metal cladding was too cheap for what all agreed was a significant project for our city. Their pride in attempting to make it even better led to the only recommendation in this unanimously approved motion of support, which was to take their comments into consideration. The Development Permit Board will do just that on August 9th, 2021, and you can ensure they hear your thoughts by contacting May Sem at

You can view more images of the update design shown at this meeting here on our Instagram.

Applicant Team Information:
Developer Partnership – Providence Health CareMinistry of Health – Province of British ColumbiaVancouver Coastal HealthThe University of British Columbia, & St. Paul’s Foundation
Architects – HDR, & Stantec
Landscape Architects – Connect Landscape Architecture

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