Sculpted To Perfection – How The World’s Tallest Passive House Got Its Groove On

1075 Nelson St (DP-2021-00589)
To say this proposal has drawn plenty of interest would be an understatement, as it played a significant role in Vancouver landing the International Passive House Conference in 2023. Even city staff acknowledged a project of this scale would further enrich local knowledge, and help build a supply chain for future projects across the world. It’s no wonder then that so many people paid attention when Hannah and I reported that the Urban Design Panel recommended its re-submission last year.

That setback only seemed to inspire this applicant team, who never wanted it to look like the typical boxy sustainable building. I wouldn’t say they welcomed city staff’s demands to remove its sky garden balconies, nor this body’s advice to eliminate its green sprout inspired colouring, but they certainly didn’t admit defeat either. Instead, they abandoned that organic design rational, and returned with something they hoped would be studied as a landmark for at least the next 100 years.

However, they recognized that the new metallic light grey panels, which are intended to take on the colours of the surroundings, would only worsen its previously criticized corporate appearance. Which is why they added vertical slots to the east and west facades who’s curves were supposed to resemble the coastline of the Downtown Peninsula. These volunteers were divided on whether exposing the previously hidden balconies had achieved this desired residential look, or if something more needed to be done.

As such, the chair proposed a compromise with a recommendation for design development of east and west slot of the building elevation. That said, the division of the roof deck into four distinct spaces, including a spa, was praised as being a compelling, well handled treatment. It was also seen as something that would be a welcome addition to our skyline, though there was an isolated comment about whether it oddly terminated at the top.

That sentiment was more united when it came to the ground level, as the addition of a canopy system, while a positive change overall, was seen as having diminished the tower. Its odd proportions and heights led to a recommendation for design development of the tower base and canopy element. The mid-block connection this site shares with the Butterfly was similarly considered an odd fit, due to its large width, which had been a demand of the city’s engineering department.

One individual lamented the involvement of multiple-stakeholders meant nothing could be done about it, yet another wasn’t as easily dissuaded. Their insistence to increase the green aspect of this zone was ultimately disregarded, still it did lead to a recommendation that called for a reduction of impervious material on ground plane. The applicant displayed a similar stubbornness, as they had refuted the previous meeting’s advice to consider relocating the children’s play space to the southwest corner of this proposal.

Some insisted it shouldn’t be located so close to an active laneway, and several others refused to believe it could receive the same amount of sunlight. This time they offered no leeway, issuing a strict recommendation for the relocation of child play area to the Nelson Street side of the site. Clearly humbled, the design team pleaded that these conditions were easy to make work, and Vancouver’s declared climate emergency meant it was critical to look at the big picture.

The panel, including invited guest experts Laura Jimenez, Ryan Bragg, Jennifer Marshal, and Robin Williams, agreed, noting strong support for this sculpted form. Their unanimous backing has sent this outline of the Downtown Peninsula to the Development Permit Board, who will determine its fate sometime after 3pm on April 19th, 2022. Fortunately you don’t need a conference ticket in order to ensure your thoughts are heard, just contact a Development Permit Board Assistant at 604-873-7770 or kathy.cermeno@vancouver.ca or may.sem@vancouver.ca .

You can view more photos showing how this design has evolved from its previous iteration, and of its new look, here and here on our Instagram.

Applicant Team Information:

Developer – Brivia Group
Architects – WKK Architects
Local Architects – IBI Group
Landscape Architects – IBI Group
Model Maker – AB Scale Models

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