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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

Beach and Howe Mixed-Use Tower in Vancouver, Canada by BIG

April 25th, 2012 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: BIG


The 490-foot-tall Beach and Howe mixed-use tower by BIG + Westbank + Dialog + Cobalt + PFS + Buro Happold + Glotman Simpson and local architect James Cheng marks the entry point to downtown Vancouver, forming a welcoming gateway to the city, while adding another unique structure to the Vancouver skyline.

Images Courtesy BIG

  • Architect: BIG
  • Name of Project: Beach and Howe Mixed-Use Tower
  • Location: Vancouver, Canada
  • Client: Westbank Projects Corp.
  • Size: 653,890 sf / 60,670 m2
  • Image credit: BIG
  • Collaborators: Dialog, Cobalt Engineering, Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg Urban Design, Buro Happold, Glotman Simpson, James KM Cheng Architects
  • Partners-in-charge: Bjarke Ingels, Thomas Christoffersen
  • Project Leader: Agustin Perez-Torres
  • Team: Julianne Gola, Marcella Martinez, Chris Malcolm, Karol Borkowski, Michael Taylor, Alina Tamosiunaite, David Brown, Tobias Hjortdal, Alexandra Gustafson

BIG’s proposal, named after its location on the corner of Howe & Beach next to the Granville Street Bridge in downtown Vancouver, calls for 600 residential units occupying the 49-story tower, which would become one of the city’s fourth tallest buildings. The tower is situated on a nine-story podium base offering market-rental housing with a mix of commercial and retail space. BIG was commissioned by Canada’s premier real estate developer Westbank, established in 1992, with over $10 billion of projects completed or under development, including the Shangri-La luxury hotels in Vancouver and Toronto.

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”, Ian Gillespie, President, Westbank.

Images Courtesy BIG

The tower takes its shape after the site’s complex urban conditions aiming to optimize 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 conditioned by concerns for two significant neighboring elements, including a 30-meter setback from the Granville bridge which ensures that no residents will have windows and balconies in the middle of heavy traffic as well as concerns for sunlight to an adjacent park which limits how far south the building can be constructed. As a result the footprint is restricted to a small triangle.

Images Courtesy BIG

The Beach and Howe tower is a contemporary descendant of the Flatiron Building in New York City – reclaiming the lost spaces for living as the tower escapes the noise and traffic at its base. In the tradition of Flatiron, Beach and Howe’s architecture is not the result of formal excess or architectural idiosyncrasies, but rather a child of its circumstances: the trisected site and the concerns for neighboring buildings and park spaces.Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner, BIG.

Images Courtesy BIG

As the tower ascends, it clears the noise, exhaust, and visual invasion of the Granville Bridge. BIG’s 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, while freeing up a generous public space at its base. 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.

Images Courtesy BIG

The tower and base are a reinvention of the local typology, known as “Vancouverism.” In this typology, slender towers are grouped with mixed-use podiums and street walls that define human-scale urban environments. The aim is to preserve view cones through the city while activating the pedestrian street,Thomas Christoffersen, Partner-in-Charge, BIG.

The tower’s podium is a mixed-use urban village with three triangular blocks that are composed of intimately-scaled spaces for working, shopping, and leisure which face onto public plazas and pathways. The additional public space adds to the existing streets, giving the neighborhood a variety of open and covered outdoor spaces of various scales which transform the site under the Granville Bridge into a dynamic and iconic mixed-use neighborhood hub.

Images Courtesy BIG

“Vancouver has already embarked upon an urban experiment in creating a super dense residential downtown – to increase pedestrian activity and street life. With this project we attempt to continue this process of densification by reclaiming a site beneath the bridges that would otherwise be lost as a lifeless “black hole” in the urban fabric. The diagonal canopies of the vehicular flows above create a new form of weather protected urban space, turning the large infrastructure in to a niche for social life.” Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner, BIG.

Images Courtesy BIG

The courtyards created by the building volumes, roofs and terraces are all designed to enhance views from the Granville Bridge and the residential units above. The canted, triangular clusters of green roofs create a highly graphic and iconic gateway to and from the downtown core, reinforcing the City of Vancouver’s focus on sustainable cities. The exterior façades respond to the various solar exposures which is integral to the overall sustainability concept. The building will strive for LEED Gold Certification.

Images Courtesy BIG


BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group is a New York and Copenhagen based group of architects, designers and thinkers operating within the fields of architecture, urbanism, research and development. BIG has created a reputation for completing buildings that are as programmatically and technically innovative as they are cost and resource conscious. In our architectural production we demonstrate a high sensitivity to the particular demands of site context and program. BIG’s recently completed projects include The Danish Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo (2010) and The 8 House (2010) being recently distinguished with a National AIA Honor Award and Wall Street Journal’s Innovator of the Year Prize . Projects in North America, include the New York City based 600 unit West 57th Tower designed for Durst Fetner Residential which will break ground in the Spring of 2012, the Kimball Art Center in Utah and an interactive Heart Sculpture at the Times Square in New York City celebrating Valentine’s 2012.

Images Courtesy BIG


Established in 1992 and with over $10 billion of projects completed or under development, Westbank is active across Canada in a diversity of product types from luxury condominiums, rental apartment office, retail, hotel, non-market housing and industrial. The main focus is on large mixed use projects involving highly complex entitlement processes. The company is best known for being the leading luxury residential developer in Canada, along with being the owner/developer of the finest hotels in Canada.

Images Courtesy BIG

Images Courtesy BIG

Images Courtesy BIG

Aerial View (Images Courtesy BIG)

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Categories: Mixed use, Tower

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