Traditional is nice, but…

…my “contemporist” inclinations are showing.  This retreat designed by Bjarko|Serra Architects of Seattle shows considerable simplicity and restraint without being cold or minimal.  There are more photographs here.

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Dutch company Peer+ has launched a new glazing product called “Smart Energy Glass” that provides three different states of shading (bright|dark|privacy) and generates electricity that can either be used in the building or contributed to the grid.  The first pilot projects in the Netherlands are currently under way.

SEG Dark
SEG Bright
SEG Privacy

In this work by b720 arquitectos of Barcelona, the end result resoundingly transcends the simple forms and limited palette of materials.

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Some design stands the test of time

860 & 880 Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, the iconic residential towers designed by Mies van der Rohe and completed in 1949/1951, have been refurbished.  More information and photographs can be viewed here.

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Vancouver city council moved to adopt LEED Gold as the new standard for rezonings as of July 2010 with LEED Gold certification in early 2011.  Director of Planning Brent Toderian’s blog post is here and the staff report is here.

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This is an image of Rize Alliance’s proposed redevelopment of the Cecil Hotel site on Granville at Drake. According to Malcolm Perry of the Vancouver Sun, HOK, Busby Perkins+Wills and IBI|HB have all had a hand in the design.  Additional information and images can be viewed here.
For years, I’ve been somewhat puzzled  as to why there is decidedly more “progressive” residential architecture in Toronto than Vancouver.  On the multi side of the equation, developers like Peter Freed of Freed Developments have built profitable brands based on delivering interesting, adventurous, design-forward mid- and high-rise communities.  Vancouver has a few exceptions – James Schouw’s one-ofs Grace, Iliad and now Artemisia; Robert Fung at The Salient Group’s Garage in Gastown; a number of Intracorp Developments’ projects including Folio and Jacobsen; architects Lang Wilson in conjunction with Hotson Bakker Boniface Haden’s Roar_One; Wall Financial’s One Wall Centre; and Cressey Development’s Milano, which I had a hand in. However, for the most part Vancouver’s skyline has been dominated by pretty straightforward point towers clad in glass and either painted concrete, stucco or Alucobond panels.  Most are virtually indistinguishable from one another, to the point of being bland and banal.
I realize that part of this is driven by simple economics: different is taken to meet less easy to build and therefore potentially more costly to construct, plus there’s the perceived added risk that you may alienate part of your market that’s looking for things that are safe and conservative.  Undeniably there is a measure of truth in this, but it is tremendously encouraging to see projects like The Rolston, 5590 Balaclava, Jacobsen, PCI Group’s Crossroads, Bastion Development’s Pulse and Coast,  and even Westbank’s Living Shangri-La pushing the envelope.  The public benefits will include a more interesting skyline and a measure of choice not seen here before.
Bring them on!
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5590 Balaclava

Shades of Arthur Erickson’s Evergreen Building perhaps, but this approved project by Emaar Canada at 41st and Balaclava in Kerrisdale hasn’t garnered much press to date. Curious, considering the design was created by Adrian Gill + Gordon Smith Architecture, the architects for the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building.  Additional detailed information is available on the architect’s site here.  Hope it gets built!

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The basic, economical, rectilinear form takes on a decidedly different appearance with the addition of the undulating balconies of varying shape and size. More than just adornment, the shape and placement of the balconies provide sufficient disruption in wind force to eliminate the need for a tuned mass damper in the building and will make the balconies usable even on the uppermost floors.

The developer is Magellan Development Group of Chicago. The building is 82 stories and will house commercial tenants, residential rental units and residential condominiums. Additional information can be found at or

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What are the chances we’ll see a suburban entry level detached housing project this ‘adventurous’ in Metro Vancouver?  Unlikely, I venture.  Additional photographs can be found here.

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Rising to New Heights – Part 3

Brent Toderian, Director of Planning, sells his staff report recommendations in this follow up article by Doug Ward of the Vancouver Sun.

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