Currently, many major cities’ skylines are dominated by towers shooting upwards from the ground, but nothing quite engages its environment. The by-product of such an approach to space maximization is isolation, rather than integration. Ole Scheeren’s Jenga-like tower aims to create a more 3-dimensional urban element.
Proposed for 1500 West Georgia Street in Vancouver, the project will house 235 residential units over 48 storeys, as well as mixed-use space on 2 floors at ground level. 6 below-ground levels will house parking, rounding out the total area of 1500 West Georgia to 30,200 square meters.
Image courtesy of Studio Practice
Its design is reminiscent of another Canadian masterwork in architecture -- Moshe Safdie's Habitat 67, in Montreal (pictured above). Habitat 67 was a major symbol of Expo 67, held in Montreal in Canada's centennial year. Safdie's vision for Habitat was to a create an urban hanging garden; it thusly became a pavilion for dignitaries and guests at the World Expo to gather, commune, and share ideas. This is a theme echoed in Buro Ole Scheeren's proposal, as the main principle in its design is to integrate the project into the fabric of urban Vancouver, providing housing while adding public amenities to the area.
Scheeren aims to minimize the building footprint at base level so as to create a maximal living/public plaza space on grade, concurrently offsetting living spaces higher off the ground to create an emotional and physical connection with the surrounding city. The proposed central plaza will be embedded with civic amenities and nearby waterscape, adding to the network of downtown green and public space. This is especially key, considering the fact that in certain neighbourhoods of major cities, there are plenty of condo developers planning for high rise apartment buildings, but the residents are underserved by way of public amenities. To cite an example, this becomes a problem when one small public park becomes the only viable option for dog-owners in the surrounding condos. The park becomes a minefield of sorts for owners and dogs alike; not to mention the parents of babies and young children who also live in the same condos, with no other nearby public space to turn to. Understandably, issues like these become the main concern of residents in the area, oftentimes overshadowing most of the good the neighbourhood has to offer. When firms design with a mind to housing and public amenities, their projects are more likely to gain the approval of the city's residents, as well as elevating the reputation of said city.
The proposed project has been designed to achieve platinum standard (the highest among silver, gold and platinum) when it comes to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification-- the rating system that is recognized as the international mark of excellence for green building in 150 countries. Renewable energy sources at the top of the building is to generate 100% of the energy for the public amenities at the ground level. Such a design goes a long way in increasing sustainability, and creates a carbon-free space for the public to enjoy in an increasingly environmentally-conscious world.
Scheeren founded his Beijing-based studio after leaving Dutch firm OMA, where he was the Director and Partner along with Rem Koolhaas, and was in charge of the firm’s projects in Asia. Buro Ole Scheeren has offices in Hong Kong, Beijing, Berlin, and Bangkok. The firm has a team of sixty plus international architects and designers working together worldwide.
All images courtesy of Buro Ole Scheeren unless otherwise stated.
Researched and written by Charmaine Cheng, Architectural Technology, Centennial College