KEVIN GRIFFIN (VANCOUVER SUN) - A new 52-storey, curving, cantilevered residential tower near the Granville Street Bridge is intended to be much more than a landmark building for the city, according to developer Ian Gillespie.
The president of Westbank Projects says Vancouver House will not only be a distinctive addition to the city’s skyline, it will also engage people closer to the ground.
The underside of the north end of the Granville Street Bridge will be used as a surface for lightboxes with still photographs, to help animate the forgotten space under the bridge. On special occasions, the area under the span will be cordoned off and used as a covered plaza for public events.
Because of several unique design and architectural elements in Vancouver House, Gillespie is doing something unusual next month. He is producing an exhibition about the building’s evolution and how it fits in with the history of urban development in Vancouver.
“This was my way of opening the kimono and asking people to come on inside and see how one of the most transformative buildings in the history of the city has evolved, and how it ended up where it ended up,” he said. “I hope people walk out inspired.”
The exhibition is called Gesamtkunstwerk. Pronounced Geh-ZAHMPT-kunst-verk, it is a German word that means a total work of art where all the parts work together in a harmonious design.
Advertising for the exhibition started early. Last month, neon signs spelling out the word went up on two sides of the building where the exhibition will take place by the Howe Street on-ramp to the Granville bridge. That was followed by a media campaign about the word Gesamtkunstwerk that included videos of various celebrities humorously trying to define and pronounce what can be an intimidating word.
The exhibition is being curated by Bjarke Ingels, the New York/Copenhagen architect designing Vancouver House, and urbanism expert Trevor Boddy. A central idea of the exhibition is “Vancouverism,” a word first used in the media in 2005 by the New York Times. It describes the distinctive vertical towers and horizontal podium buildings that have been built in downtown and throughout the region.
One of the works in the exhibition is an early drawing by architect Arthur Erickson from 1955. Known as the Project 56 sketch, the drawing depicts a sleeker version of the podium and tower building.
Gillespie said the exhibition is about placing Vancouver House in the context of city building and how its design has evolved over seven years. “I could go knock off a highrise like the 150 other highrises that have been built in the last 15 years,” he said. “I can do that in my sleep.
“But to do something like Vancouver House, it takes hundreds of people the better part of a decade just to design.”
Vancouver House’s unique shape is due to the way it rises from a triangular base and gradually changes into a rectangle by the time it reaches the top. With additional residential units as well as retail and office space in the low-rise buildings, the area is designed to create an urban village that echoes Granville Island on the other side of False Creek.
Although Gillespie fits the definition of a developer, he breaks the mould with architecturally distinctive buildings.
They include the dramatic 41-storey green and blue LED lightpipe on the north side of the Shaw Tower by Diana Thater, the text-based work lyingontopofabuilding ... by Liam Gillick on the outside of the Fairmont Pacific Rim, and Abbott & Cordova, 7 August, 1971 by Stan Douglas in the Woodward’s atrium. Douglas’ dramatic photomural is a re-staging of the historic Gastown Riot.
Gillespie said he stumbled on the word gesamkunstwerk at a show on the influential B.C.-born architect Ron Thom curated by Adele Weder at the West Vancouver Museum. He became fascinated with the word and how it related to his own work. “I realized that that’s really how my practice has evolved,” Gillespie said. “At the end of the day, gesamkunstwerk is our manifesto.”
Gesamtkunstwerk opens March 22, at 1460 Howe between Pacific and Beach.
Read more: Vancouver Sun
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