High-rise Dancer Once Again Leaves Vancouver’s Urban Design Panel Demanding An Encore

601 Beach Crescent (DP-2021-00162)
As another year draws to an end, this proposal under the Higher Buildings Policy was a stark reminder that almost four have passed since Hannah and I started City Duo. It was first revealed only a couple months after we began to recap our experiences at Vancouver’s civic meetings, and it’s hard to believe this review process still isn’t finished. Frankly, given its ongoing struggles at the Urban Design Panel, it may outlast us, as we can’t do this forever.

To be fair, as city council has already approved its height and general shape, it’s the finer details that have seen it falter at the development application stage. Those were largely absent from the concept presented earlier this year, and the lack of any information around the Seymour Mews earned it a well deserved motion of re-submission. As predicted, several months of delay followed, and now these volunteers were once again tasked to judge whether it met our city’s standards.

Returning to join them for this third examination were a trio of experts, Robin Williams, Karen Marler, and Laura Jimenez, who were invited to contribute their knowledge to this process. Both groups agreed it was now heading in the right direction, but the problem was it had taken too long to make this pirouette. Not only had it fallen behind nearly twenty taller buildings, most of which are in the suburbs, its once leading sustainability measures had become outdated.

Laughing off the prospect of an extremely expensive triple-glazed, curved glass curtain wall, they recommended design development to demonstrate leadership in sustainability. That underscored the importance of this gateway location, which one member felt this style disrespected as they preferred Vancouver House’s “restrained” sentinel look. Worse was that it didn’t evoke the intended airy flow of a dancer’s gown, instead it simply crashed into the townhomes on the east side, and awkwardly interacts with its podium partner.

A guest noted that’s been a problem since day one, and so the others recommended resolution of the tower and podium intersection/relationship to provide clear conceptual continuity and approach to all sides of the building. The podium’s office-like expression also remained a focus of scorn, as its appearance betrays the social housing apartments within. In fact, when pressed the applicant admitted they hadn’t even decided if they would use precast concrete or cement panels to clad it.

In an uncharacteristically blunt move, the panel recommended “a clear understanding of the materials proposed.” Maybe their irritation that a “Stramp” had been used to solve the elevation challenge at the corner of Rolston and Beach, rather than an amphitheatre, finally boiled over. Apparently, this Arthur Erickson-inspired solution is actually considered an example of what not to do. So it wasn’t surprising they recommended design development to the public realm to demonstrate best practices and accessibility and public safety.

That also captured that the better detailed Seymour Mews plan was somewhere this routine continues to trip up, as the positive move of pulling back the parkade ramp had created a dead-end pedestrian path. Worse was that the upper level’s landscaping exceeded the property line, and simply mimicked the neighbouring building’s residential appearance. They sternly recommended architectural and landscape approach to the Seymour Mews to reflect consistently with the overall project concept, and also reflect uniqueness to neighbours.

Despite being limited by AIBC Bulletin 65 (pg 8), everyone offered plenty of suggestions, and the chair acknowledged it was impossible to do justice to them all. Yet, their unanimously approved motion for re-submission accurately summarized that while some good moves were made, a significant amount of work remained. Which means this performance will likely repeat again in a couple months, and the only way it can possibly find the right rhythm is if leave your comments here.

You can see more photos from this meeting here on our Instagram, or view the previous version here.

Applicant Team Information:

Developer  – Pinnacle International
Architects – JYOM Architects
Local Architects – GBL Architects Inc
Landscape Architects – Janet Rosenberg & Studio Inc.

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