With Icepick Tower out, is Vancouver a city of boring architecture?


By Jeff Lee
January 29, 2015, The Vancouver Sun

Does Vancouver play it safe when it comes to the architecture of its downtown buildings? Are we a city largely of cookie-cutter glass reflective towers, eschewing “out there” contemporary designs that may make us uncomfortable?

Wednesday night’s rejection by the Urban Design Panel of Cadillac Fairview’s see-through glass tower next to the Waterfront Station was based in part on the fact the massive, angular building didn’t “fit” with its neighbours and that it was unnecessarily crowding the station.

Michael Geller, who often weighs in on the civic issues of architecture and their relation to public space, has weighed in fairly heavily on Cadillac Fairview’s plans for 555 W. Cordova. His latest post, done shortly after the panel sent the building back for redesign, humorously compares their concerns to that of the O.J. Simpson trial: “IT DOESN’T FIT!”

Humour aside, there were lots of compliments from the panel of the building’s architects, Gordon Gill and Adrian Smith. Here were two internationally-renowned architects who had built hugely iconic buildings. Smith had designed the world’s two tallest structures, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and the yet-to-be-finished Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It was hard for the panel members not to be impressed with the men sitting before them.

But that didn’t stop every one of the six members of the UDP – architects, developers and landscape architects in their own rights – from finding fault with a design they said did not pay homage to the neighbourhood or the city itself. And they made it clear that they didn’t like the city’s demand that a road allowance for the future waterfront hub – an office district over the CPR tracks that is more of a pipe dream than a reality at this stage – be protected at the expense of the proposed building’s tiny ground floor plate. In insisting the road allowance beside the adjacent Landing Building be kept, the city essentially forced Gill and Smith to design a tower that unnecessarily shadowed and had to be built around the train station. Read more…

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