LMN Architects / DA Architects & Planners / Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership
Vancouver, British Columbia
Though Vancouver Convention Centre West spans 22 acres on the downtown waterfront and includes infrastructure for such future amenities as a seaplane terminal, the center is one of the city’s more humble buildings. LMN Architects, with DA Architects + Planners and Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership, shaped 1 million square feet of exhibit halls, conference rooms, and event spaces into a sloping, grass-covered building that looks more like a stepped hillock wrapped in glass than a business complex.
Before the center’s completion, in 2009, this swath of downtown Vancouver abruptly ended at a brownfield site on Coal Harbor. To connect the land back to the city, LMN brought the urban grid to the waterfront with public promenades. The architects saw the structure (built partly over the water) not just as a bridge between harbor and city but also as a platform for extending the area’s marine and wildlife habitats. The center’s living roof hosts bee colonies, for instance, and tiered concrete steps around the foundation piles create shallow waters for salmon. “We were really interested in seeing how the activities of people intersect the landscape and the marine systems, and trying to make them all better because they’re connecting in one composition,” LMN partner Mark Reddington says of the LEED Platinum building.
Working with the landscape architects at PWL Partnership, LMN treated the concreteand-steel structure as a landform. To preserve sightlines for pedestrians, the architects pulled the meeting rooms and other interior elements in from the perimeter to keep the edges transparent. In some places, they dropped the 6-acre living roof down to eye level to frame views and provide a constant reference point to the landscape.
With three times the space of the adjacent Convention Centre East, the complex has doubled event attendance since its opening. In fiscal year 2012, the two centers together hosted 790,000 people (compared with 393,000 the year before the expansion was completed). By treating urban and natural habitats as one integrated mass, the project enriches the neighborhood even for Vancouverites who never set foot in the building. “It brings to the community a dense, diverse, ecologically strong place,” says Reddington. “It becomes a focal point of life in the community.”
Architects: LMN Architects (design architect); DA Architects + Planners, Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership (architects of record)
Size: 1.2 million square feet
Cost: $625 million
Completion date: April 2009
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