Each of Danish architect Bjarke Ingels’s projects — realized or not — is a spectacle in its own right. Vancouver House, his firm’s recently completed residential tower, is exemplary. With a twisting form that presides over the heart of the Canadian metropolis, it’s a landmark like no other.
The high-rise’s distinctive design, however, emerged from a deft negotiation of contextual restraints, rather than pure geometric experimentation. Contending with a narrow triangular site (once thought unusable) framed by Howe Street, Beach Avenue and the elevated Highway 99, the architects, in collaboration with local practice DIALOG and engineers Buro Happold, created a 30-metre-deep setback to introduce breathing room between the heavy traffic and individual suites. Once the 59-storey residence has cleared the physical constraints of the Granville Street Bridge off-ramp, it begins to expand outward and twist gracefully, effectively reclaiming the space above the setback.
Its honeycomb-like cladding, composed of the rectilinear apertures that frame each of its 502 abodes (and recall the studio’s 2016 Serpentine Pavilion), gives the towering complex a shimmering sense of rhythm. The angular podium, sprawling some 60,600 square metres, brings both amenity and retail space to the street level.
In the end, the clever moves paid off. The result is a soaring icon that appears like a curtain gently pulling back, inviting visitors into the city and, more importantly, welcoming residents home.
Team Bjarke Ingels, Thomas Christoffersen, Beat Schenk (BIG) and Vance Harris (DIALOG) with Agustín Pérez-Torres, Carl MacDonald and Melissa Bauld (BIG); Wolf Mangelsdorf (Buro Happold); Robert Simpson (Glotman Simpson Group) and Craig Galbraith (ICON Pacific Construction)