Shigeru Ban’s Terrace House Will Be the World’s Tallest Hybrid Wood Tower

The new residential building will directly complement Arthur Erickson’s Evergreen Building next door.

Sydney Franklin Sydney Franklin

Shigeru Ban has released the latest renderings for what will become the tallest hybrid timber structure in the world. Terrace House, now commencing construction on Vancouver’s waterfront, will be a 230-foot-tall residential tower constructed entirely of wood, concrete and steel.

The Japanese architect unveiled plans for the project last year, showing a mono-pitched structure framed in timber and clad in glass with a concrete and steel core. It will feature 19 stories of just 20 apartments and boast a series of large landscaped terraces on the lower half of the complex.

Terrace House is Ban’s first project in Canada and the tallest building he has produced so far. His design was inspired by the adjacent Evergreen Building by the late Canadian architect Arthur Erickson. Built in 1978, the listed landmark features stepped floors with zigzagging concrete roofs — one of Vancouver’s most treasured pieces of architecture and an icon in the city’s Coal Harbour neighborhood.

Ban’s design directly complements the Evergreen Building by mirroring its unique shape. The podium of Terrace House looks as if it seamlessly connects with the terraces of its older neighbor. PortLiving, the building’s developer, even managed to hire the same landscape designer who worked on the Evergreen Building nearly 40 years ago, the esteemed Cornelia Oberlander, to create a harmonious design for the new project. With her knowledge of the site and Ban’s pioneering proposal, Terrace House is expected to become a global symbol for architectural innovation and green building.

“Shigeru Ban has tremendous respect for Arthur Erickson’s work. It was the opportunity to design a building next to one of Erickson’s masterpieces that initially drew him to this innovative project,” said Dean Maltz, Managing Partner at Shigeru Ban Architects Americas, in a press release.

Ban’s Terrace House beats the current record-holder for world’s tallest hybrid timber tower, the 170-feet-high Brock Commons also located in Vancouver at the University of British Columbia. The architect’s Tamedia Office Building in Zurich and the Aspen Art Museum, among others, also use wood as a key structural component.

Tobi Reyes, CEO of PortLiving, said that the idea to use timber as a main material on Terrace House came directly from Ban himself.

“It wasn’t something that we set out to do,” said Reyes, “We anticipated he would introduce some sort of innovation or some use of materials that hasn’t been done before, but the mass timber piece making it the world’s tallest hybrid tower — that was all him.”

According to Reyes and his team, the building demonstrates Vancouver’s commitment to forward-thinking sustainable design as well as its future focus on timber engineering and construction. The city is well on its way to becoming a world leader in this regard. In fact, as Reyes pointed out, given the size of Terrace House, its proximity to the coastline and its use of materials, it is the type of building that would have otherwise been very difficult to build in North America.

“Purely from a land-use, zoning and economic perspective, it’s really hard to plan and execute the kind of project anywhere near here,” he said. “The location is what makes it really special — being Coal Harbor, neighboring the Evergreen Building and working in a scale that, to be honest, doesn’t exist anymore with today’s economic and market pressure.”

Terrace House includes just 20 units, each complete with 400 square feet of outdoor space. This design decision allows complete individuality and maximum privacy in each apartment, making it an architectural gem and a rare build in a time when cities are expanding and populations are rising at such rapid rates that architects can no longer create such customized living quarters.

Many of today’s newest timber structures are popping up in Scandinavia in the form of winter retreats or cultural centers where the landscape is more vast, the material is appropriate for the colder climate and it fits the Nordic aesthetic. But timber is also being used more widely in and around Asia’s heavily forested areas. In Thailand, Bangkok Project Studio designed a chic bar framed in a grid of plywood walls. Kengo Kuma’s new art museum for Turkey features a cluster of slatted timber blocks.

Even in the United States, smaller structures like these are coming to fruition. Last year, Michael Green Architecture completed a seven-story mass-timber building in Minneapolis, while the 12-story Framework planned for Portland, Oregon, will become the first timber high-rise in the country.

Terrace House in Vancouver is slated to undergo a 22-month construction period after the existing structure is completely demolished. Units are expected to go on sale later this month.

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