BIG, one of the newest contenders for the starchitect’s mantle, and one of the most prolific, has unveiled its design for a new 49-story mixed-use tower in downtown Vancouver. The tower’s form, simple yet subtly captivating, is the result of the site-based concept that generated it.
The building will be located at the intersection of Beach and Howe Streets, at the downtown end of the Granville Bridge. In order to ensure the safety of residents and that a nearby park kept its access to sunlight, the tower had to be pulled back thirty feet from the bridge, squeezing it into a narrow triangular wedge. The restricted siting of the building prompted BIG founder Bjarke Ingels to claim the Flatiron Building, the famous triangular tower and perhaps the world’s first skyscraper, as a precedent. (Not the first time Bjarke has invoked the peculiar forms and singular typologies wrought by "Manhattanism".)
However, unlike the Flatiron Building, BIG’s new tower--which, when built, will be Vancouver's fourth largest building--clears its impediments as it rises above the bridge, allowing it to expand from the inefficient triangular plan at its base, to an optimal rectangular plan at the top. This creates a large, if gradual, cantilever over surrounding public space. Ingels compares the resulting shape to a curtain being drawn back, “welcoming people as they enter the city from the bridge.”
The massing of the building appears quite different from various vantage points—from one side, elegantly sweeping, and from another dangerously unbalanced and ready to topple—meaning that opinions on the tower will be just as heterogeneous as it moves toward approvals.