For some years now, the City has been approving the replacement of small plazas, originally incorporated into the design of downtown office buildings and open to the public, with infill development. Now those projects are underway – notably at Hastings and Seymour, and here at Dunsmuir and Homer, which in 2009 looked like this:
The two-storey pavilion and surrounding plaza were part of 401 West Georgia, and were never much used. Shadowed, windy, and even though windowed, presented a blank, bland facade to the street. But the empty space at least gave breathing room for the adjacent Holy Rosary Cathedral.
Here’s what that looked like until recently, from the view at Richards and Dunsmuir:
Now that the infill building replacing the pavilion and plaza is almost complete, here’s the view a few weeks ago:
I suspect the architects thought they were being respectful while providing street continuity in this fast-changing part of east Dunsmuir. But the result is a crowded cathedral and more blank glass walls. There’s not even a chamfered corner that would have acknowledged the church.
We’ll hold final judgement until the ground-level frontage is complete. But even though the original plaza will not be missed, the setback and breathing room for the cathedral most certainly will.
The new building was built on existing footings (above the existing underground parkade),
so the built form probably reflects a desire to distribute the load of the new structure across a wider area than a skinny tower (with setbacks) would do.
Also, the building has been leased to Amazon, and tech companies prefer larger floorplates.
It’s likely that similar issues have driven the unfortunate massing of the Royal Centre banking pavilion replacement.
This particular building should really be judged on it’s brutal ugliness and not necessarily on it’s relationship to any of its neighbours. I’m not convinced its juxtaposition with the cathedral is the issue; it doesn’t work well with the rest of its own complex either. A beautiful building could share the streetscape in a pleasing way.
There’s no shortage of truly ugly buildings downtown and many of them are of this scale. I think that is part of the problem. Buildings under ten stories don’t get enough attention in the design stage even though they play just as big a role in our urban experience. People get all wound up over tall buildings and hold them to a higher standard.
Having said that, I predict Vancouver Centre II is going to be equally disastrous.
I quite like the exterior finishing on this building.
The darker glass and dark steel accents are much better than the all too common green colour of Telus Garden.
As for “matching” the original tower, I view it now as 2 adjacent building sites, as happens on any blocks downtown that are not developed as “super-blocks”.
I do agree though, that Vancouver Centre II isn’t a particular nice design.
The proximity to Scotia Tower is fine – I just don’t like the design all that much.
Another crime of opportunity against architecture and the urban design of the public realm.