Vancouver buildings’ beauty in the eye of the beholder


While the city already had a higher buildings policy, it was amended and strengthened around 2010. The planning department identified about six sites where particularly tall buildings could be constructed, one of which is at the north end of Granville Bridge where Vancouver House is now situated, while another site is opposite to Vancouver House where Pinnacle International hopes to build a tower. The goal is to create a “Granville Gateway” into and out of the downtown.

Such buildings face more stringent expectations in terms of architecture and green design.


The city started to see international architects teamed up with local architects — rare in the past — according to Toderian, which he maintains has created some of the most interesting buildings.

“Here’s the problem,” he added. “The architectural conversation too often is in the context of the high-market buildings, the boutique buildings, the expensive buildings for rich people. Whereas I always wanted the architectural conversation to be about buildings of every size, and scale and cost.”

Toderian noted some of the best architectural proposals he saw while chief planner were for the 12 social housing sites funded during the Olympics and built in the years after.

“We saw BC Housing building not only green buildings, LEED gold buildings, but also very architecturally interesting buildings without having to make them shaped like Marilyn Monroe. Just interesting material and interesting colours, which is something we seem almost allergic to architecturally in this city.”

“In a city of beige and green glass, any colour, if it’s well done, can result in more interesting architecture… colour is like any other aspect of design. If it’s done well, it can really add to the architectural diversity and variety and interest.”

He cites Jubilee House, a social housing building at Richards and Helmcken, which features splashes of green and articulation of the façade, as a good example.

“This building illustrates that you don’t need to do a lot to have better architecture. It’s still largely a box [and] the building program is still very simple so it’s very cost-effective,” he said.

“There’s a false narrative out there that to get great architecture, it has to be expensive and it has to be bigger and taller than everything else. That’s not true. And this building illustrates that.”

January 28, 2020 Vancouver buildings’ beauty in the eye of the beholder

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