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Plans for unconventional Buro Happold-designed tower unveiled in Vancouver

A collection of American and European architects and design houses have unveiled plans for a 150m tall signature tower for the Canadian city of Vancouver.

Developer Westbank brought in a raft of international firms including lead architect Big, Dialog, Cobalt Engineering, Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg Urban Design, Buro Happold, Glotman Simpson and local architect James Cheng to make sure the Beach and Howe tower forms a welcoming gateway to the city.

Big’s proposal, named after its location on the corner of Howe & Beach next to the Granville Street Bridge in downtown Vancouver, would see 600 residential units occupying the 49 storey tower, which would become one of the city’s fourth tallest buildings. The tower is situated on a nine storey podium base offering market-rental housing with a mix of commercial and retail space.

The tower takes its cantilevered shape after the site’s complex urban conditions. Its design aims to optimise the conditions for its future inhabitants in the air as well as on the street level. At its base, the footprint of the tower is dictated by the need to include a 30m setback from the Granville bridge. This ensures that no residents will have windows and balconies in the middle of heavy traffic. Concerns for sunlight to an adjacent park limit how far south the building can be constructed. As a result the footprint is restricted to a small triangle.

The design reclaims the lost area as the tower clears the zone of influence of the bridge, gradually cantilevering over the site. This movement turns the inefficient triangle into an optimal rectangular floor plate, increasing the desirable spaces for living at its top. The resultant silhouette has a unique appearance that changes from every angle and resembles a curtain being drawn aside, welcoming people as they enter the city from the bridge.

“We have brought together the best talent available in Vancouver and Europe to create a truly world class project that will enrich not only the particular neighborhood, but also the city and its quest to become creative, sustainable and affordable city. Architecturally, the Beach and Howe tower will introduce a new building typology to the Vancouver skyline and will create a dramatic gateway to downtown Vancouver that speaks to the emerging creative economy in the city,” said Westbank president Ian Gillespie.

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