February 16, 2021

Starchitect Coming to Improve Vancouver’s “Sterile & Boring” Tower Design


Vancouver is soon to have a new edition of the starchitect interpretation of building with London England’s  Heatherwick Studio’s proposed towers at 1728 Alberni Street and 735 Bidwell Street. The Heatherwick Studio realized  that there might be a bit of a shock value to the proposal of two popsicle lump towers  that look like inverted spark plugs. They cleverly have gone  into “the best defense is a great offense” mode by putting down  all the rest of Vancouver’s architecture to make theirs appear, well, more attractive.

Susan Lazaruk has written about this potential application in the Vancouver Sun. As Ms. Lazaruk writes, the architects find Vancouver design “sterile and boring” and their winding buildings are to emulate trees, connecting the public at ground level to the top of the towers. You can read through the  over 300 page application here.

Wry commenters have already mentioned that the song “99 Luft Balloons” would be a suitable theme for the building, and that probably should be piped as  elevator muzak in the reception area.

The Heatherwick Studio are the same folks that built “The Vessel” in New York City which I wrote about earlier.That 15 storey public art installation with 2,500 stairs and 80 landings cost the developers of Hudson Yards 200 million dollars (that’s US dollars) and provides ” a vertical climbing experience” and has “Vessel Ambassadors” to serve as onsite assistants. Don’t ask if it is fully accessible. It’s not.

The Vessel has  already been pretty well dissed by architectural critics and some of the public as being an expensive confection that is just not that practical.

One architectural  writer went one step further, calling The Vessel “a piece of urban costume jewellery, a gawdy bauble without purpose beyond shallow adornment” and ” a billionaire’s fantasy of the future of city life”. It’s no surprise that  Heatherwick Studio took exception, and you can read some of their  responses here on Dezeen.

But back to Vancouver and the Heatherwick proposal of 401 condominium units in two towers on a base.

While the architects say that the towers are 30 stories with the tower base I counted closer to 40 on the model. The design, the scale, the busy pattern, makes this appear as the scissor cut out of New York City’s Vessel.

Some of it has a retro feel~like the pool which looks like a polynesian roofline from The Bayshore Hotel’s old Trader Vic’s Polynesian themed bar.  The bigger question will be who will live in these condos and what the price point will be for units  that probably will be  out of reach of most Vancouverites.

But we will be able to look at them.

You can click on the YouTube video below to learn a bit more about Thomas Heatherwick and the Heatherwick Studio, which has designed everything from bridges to buses, and in our case,  this newest Vancouver building rezoning proposal.




Posted in


If you love this region and have a view to its future please subscribe, donate, or become a Patron.

Share on


  1. The Vessel has also been the site of a number of suicides.

    The Vancouver towers are heavily constrained by view cones and shadowing on the parkette at Bayshore Gardens, giving them stepped tops that make them look incomplete.
    Not my favourite design, but I don’t have to like everything that’s built – presumably, someone will like it if its being offered for sale.
    Interestingly, a mid-rise brutalist concrete condo / apartment building will have to be demolished for them. I suspect that there isn’t much love for it either, although it’s representative of an architectural era that’s being wipely out.

Subscribe to Viewpoint Vancouver

Get breaking news and fresh views, direct to your inbox.

Join 7,312 other subscribers

Show your Support

Check our Patreon page for stylish coffee mugs, private city tours, and more – or, make a one-time or recurring donation. Thank you for helping shape this place we love.

Popular Articles

See All

All Articles