Search For Hidden Mountain Pathway Chips Away At Refined Addition To Vancouver’s Skyline

1616-1698 W Georgia St (DP-2021-00409)
I imagine whoever forgot to let this applicant team know the previous item on this Urban Design Panel meeting’s agenda had been cancelled felt a little embarrassed during the 20-minute delay that followed. That this world-renowned architect was willing to drop what they were doing to log in well ahead of schedule might be a sign of our city’s growing global importance. Then again, what flashed on screen was a dose of reality, and brought gasps from these volunteers.

With no time to make it to the office, they paused their early access tour of One Vanderbilt’s SUMMIT, giving us all a view of New York City’s skyline from its tallest office building. In comparison, the heights of Vancouver’s West End are humble, yet thanks to their unique styles the structures along the West Georgia Corridor (pg. 50) have won international recognition, and awards. However, this review would determine whether this North Shore-inspired design had been refined enough to join them.

After all, its general size had only been a problem for city staff, who had reduced it by 60 feet to prevent shadows on Marine Square Park (#122). Echoing the sentiment Hannah and I witnessed at the open house, at the public hearing Mayor Stewart questioned this decision (3:05:16), but was too late to reverse it without redoing the entire process. Those strict condition makes the panel’s recommendation to ensure rezoning conditions for planting species and edible plants are met somewhat redundant.

Their advice ignored city staff’s explanation that even if these weren’t shown on every document, they would be there in reality (pg. 23 1.9). Ironically, the recommendation to review the location and overlook of the amenity deck locations to support an equitable approach and broader appeal seemed like an attempt to alter these rules. It camouflaged a desire to move this feature to the building’s west side along Bidwell, as a few disapproved of its council-approved location above the pedestrian mews.

That updated pathway received plenty of praise, as it was able to adhere to this body’s prior advice since its landscape architects were also working on the project on its eastern side. That allowed them to create enough room to morph this steep straight climb into an accessible ramp lined with plants that provided privacy for the townhomes backing onto it. Yet some feared its tight entrances were still too hidden away, and might need surveillance to preserve public safety.

To resolve these CPTED issues, it was recommended to improve porosity and pedestrian interface with the base of the building along Georgia Street, with particular attention to Georgia at the mid-block connector. Whether this was accomplished through passive surveillance measures or by further opening up the northeast corner was left to the applicant to decide. That said, a few clearly favoured the latter, as they hoped chipping away this “metaphorical mountain” would create a legible path into it.

While the combination of public art, waterfall, and landscaping were beautiful, the problem was they had also created a maze-like environment, complete with a stark barrier. Acting as guides, they recommended design development to the entry to achieve greater porosity and legibility, and to review the expression of the column at the entry to support the overall concept. Despite these ground level faults, all recognized the numerous movements made from the rezoning stage had been for the better.

Their unanimous decision to support this project reflected that they felt this strong conceptual base, modern materials, and “beautiful architectural expression” belonged on this ceremonial street, and in our skyline. By this time it was already dark on the east coast, but it will take you only around a New York-minute to make your thoughts heard here before the Development Permit Board decides this proposal’s fate on October 18th, 2021.

You can view this project’s evolution here, or see more photos from this event, including a screenshot from the SUMMIT here on our Instagram.

Applicant Team Information:

Developer – Anthem Properties Group Ltd.
Architects – Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates
Local Architects – Chris Dikeakos Architects
Landscape Architects – PFS Studio

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