Sanjay Gangal is the President of IBSystems, the parent company of AECCafe.com, MCADCafe, EDACafe.Com, GISCafe.Com, and ShareCG.Com.
The Atrium in Victoria, B.C. by D’Ambrosio Architecture + Urbanism
May 1st, 2012 by Sanjay Gangal
Article source: D’Ambrosio Architecture + Urbanism
The Atrium, a high-density mid-rise office building set in a transitional area of downtown Victoria, challenged its architects: how can a speculatively-built office building revitalize a moribund area and enrich the community at large? How can the economics of high-density, downtown office buildings work in a mid-rise, green-building form?
Occupying the length of a city block, the Atrium actively engages its civic context. To complement Victoria’s historical downtown, and reintegrate the block into its urban fabric, the building takes a mid-rise form, built to the street walls to give definition to the public realm. The building’s palette of natural, durable materials invests the district with a welcome sense of commitment.
A transparent ground floor houses cafes and restaurants, inviting people to approach, look in, and stay a while. Rain gardens edge the site, a first for a private development in Victoria, catching and cleaning polluted street run-off, and softening the cityscape.
A seven-storey atrium introduces daylight into the heart of the structure, and maximizes the use of wood in non-combustible construction. The wood, visible from the street through a seven-storey glass wall, distinguishes the atrium from the surrounding offices, and invites the public to animate this urban room. Community groups have taken up the invitation, using the atrium to host such events as an opera performance and a film festival reception.
To create a more animated urban space, the project team commissioned an artist to design an installation for the atrium. This installation treats the atrium floor as a canvas for an abstract mosaic. The work is derived from the building’s lines and uses local marble tiles. Wood sculptures complement the mosaic’s lines, and provide places to sit.
Overhead, innovative wood trusses support a 7,200 square-foot skylight. Panelized hemlock slats follow the sweep of the atrium’s curving walls, and tongue and groove cedar soffits bring warmth and definition to the building’s street level. The family-owned company that commissioned the building ran one of the first lumber companies on Vancouver Island, a history that enriches the meaning of using wood in the atrium.
The atrium not only serves as a public room, but it acts as a return air plenum in the building’s highly efficient displacement ventilation system. Conditioned air is delivered near the floor, so the air requires less cooling. Convection draws the air to heat-generating occupants and equipment, where it’s needed. As the air warms, it rises naturally to exhaust through the ceiling. Displacement ventilation uses less energy to deliver higher quality air more quietly, and is a key component in the building’s LEED Gold-targeted environmental strategies.
A primary ambition for the Atrium was to create a building that will endure, and that will earn the regard of people who will help it to endure. In doing so, the Atrium gives weight to urban fit, sustainability, and occupant well-being as well as to profitability. While an institutional or owner-occupied office building might achieve a similar balance of priorities, as a speculative office building the Atrium raises the standard for its type.