February 25, 2015

555 West Cordova: Appendages

Frank Ducote drew my attention to the DP permit sign at 555 West Cordova, with appendage:




The debate heats up – the architect’s response (from The Tyee): ‘Origami Tower’ Architect Fires Back at Tyee Critic

The planning community in Vancouver has ignored this area of the city for too long and not paid adequate attention to the fact that this station is a major gateway to the city and that its context is the appropriate location for responsible high density because of its closeness to this transportation hub. In my mind, to ignore this and to ignore the rights of the owner of this property is a public disservice. This has not just come about because of the concept that we presented this month at the design review board but has been a long-standing area of neglect since this owner has tried on three other occasions to obtain planning consent, using local architectural design talent to no avail.

One is nevertheless correct in condemning the contrived nature of the solution but it would be appropriate to understand the punishing constraints placed on the owner by the City planners and by extension the entire planning community of Vancouver regarding this seemingly benign parcel for no apparently good reason.

– Adrian Smith

Full response here.

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  1. Water Front Station is a multi modal transportation hub that includes a bus interface. This system operates entirely within city right of ways.

    The Hub plan is a proposal by the city planning department based on the idea of a central transit hall of large urban scale, a grand enclosed sub-grade civic space located to the north of Waterfront Station. The Hub plan is a guidelines plan that has never seen the scrutiny of a public hearing and is concocted in the main to thwart development of the Whitecaps Stadium. The main problem with the plan is that the City does not own any land in this area including rights of way. So the intent of the plan is to prevent development and it will be successful in that sense if nothing is ever built there.

    The issues with the Hub plan lie with the ownership pattern of these lands, operating agreements with transit authorities, extraordinary development costs for transportation infrastructure and a lack of sponsorship.

    The plan could be adjusted to encourage waterfront development by the extension of Canada Way downward sloping to the waterfront road below which would then open up the shoreline for development by the Whitecaps, where for example they could find moorage for a new floating stadium.

    The main point of all this background is that the “Oragami” proposal should not be constrained by imaginary right of ways that could well end up going nowhere.

    In addition if the view cones were to be relaxed the “Oragami” can become a higher city wide landmark for this very special node in our urban structure.

  2. And

    There is at this moment in the history of the City of Vancouver an opportunity to complete three important Civic Works. Civic because they include public works, and civic because they are utilized and enjoyed by the public. I would count these projects to be the Oragami Building, the new VAG and the Whitecaps Stadium. All of these projects are located downtown, all of them speak to the international community as they should, and all of them could be helped with assistance from the City in terms of zoning and development rights, and with development conditions that deliver needed contextual aspects of the public realm. The Oragami and the new VAG development sites mark significant locations in the urban landscape and both sites should be granted landmark height status. The Whitecaps Stadium could be built in a shipyard and floated in the harbour making our City famous for innovation and first among stadium exporters of the beautiful game.

    The future of our City should not rest with a negative commentary by vested interests but rather with a fresh and optimistic future that the development of these projects promises.

  3. What vested interests? Did you work on the stadium or Hub project, Jolson? Just curious.

    I don’t think many people share your enthusiasm for at least two of your noted aspirations – a waterfront stadium (use the ones we’ve got, already) and the 555 W. Cordova (failed) design. I’m very happy to see the UDP did the right thing on that one, giving both Cadillac Fairview and Adrian Smith a wonderful opportunity to engage the city in a meaningful – and wider – discourse. Presenting or co-developing a number of options would be great, IMO. Such a wider discourse should include all of CF’s lands, and the desirability and necessity of opening up Granville Street at grade, long overdue. By doing so there might not be a need for a 66′ ROW across the 555 site, which would give any future development there more breathing room for a better solution.

    The VAG proposition is another discussion. But again, given its importance, I think that would also deserve a public conversation about potential and preferred options.

  4. This proposed building is the very embodiment of Prince Charles “monstrous carbuncle” comment. Plopped down beside a beloved landmark with no context or relationship. It merely dwarfs and diminishes the historic structure. And relaxing the view cones,like bending any rules, is a slippery slope. Vision already got their hands judicially slapped for one such deal. No need to risk another.

    1. Note that there is no “deal” here.
      Cadillac Fairview owns the CP Station (it is not owned by the City nor TransLink).
      The site of the proposed tower is the on the same parcel of land as the CP Station, so it is overhanging its own building.
      The overhanging could be avoided completely but for the preservation of distant views from QE Park and City Hall over an arbitrary view cone (which the neighbouring Harbour Centre greatly exceeds).

  5. This building smacks of Libeskind’s crystalline assault on the ROM in its almost perfect refutation of context, but in my opinion is overall less offensive than the overzealous, cantilevered air space grabs by the Telus tower complex which are currently, and forever, looming over Richards, Seymour, and Robson streets.

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