The office tower is located on one of the main avenues through downtown Vancouver and straddles two distinct neighbourhoods: the business centre dominated by glass high-rises and the cultural and the entertainment district scattered with low-slung buildings like museums, theatres, and sports complexes. The Vancouver Public Library in front and the Centre for Performing Arts next door, both by architect Moshe Safdie, have similar materials and motifs that consolidate their civic character at the boundary with the office district. Their low and horizontal profiles, together with the library’s generous plaza facing the site, offers a relatively spacious urban setting on the cusp of two zones.
The tower is designed as a vertical assemblage of glass boxes that radiate outward to express the pivotal location of the site. The multitude of orientations creates an ever-changing silhouette that shifts depending on the position from where it is seen. This is further exaggerated by the reflections of the angular facade, made up of mainly glass and aluminium panels, but also of mirror soffits where the volumes cantilever.
While the tower’s shape and materiality create an impression of randomness, the underlying structure is based on simple rules. The building’s main element is the 4-storey high glass cube. Six of these cubes are grouped together around a central shaft to complete a floor. Overall, there are three main groupings (3 typical floors) of which two are repeated. The glazing and panelling systems of the façade are based on a single module, and the structural system repeats itself throughout the building.
Internally, the folding façade creates a jagged plan that gently compartmentalizes the otherwise continuous floorplate. This offers new ways of configuring the fast-evolving office layout. Spatially, the inner angles of the glass bring light deeper into the building. At the same time they provide more views of the surroundings from the depths of the floorplate. These views are often framed by other portions of the tower itself, such as by the overhanging cantilevers or protruding volumes below, not to mention the folding façade across the floor. The 3-dimensionality of the tower is also tangible from within.
The bulk of the building is held by a central elevator core and six “mega-columns” that penetrate through all floors. There are no other columns in the centre of the floorplate, only trusses along the facade that transfer perimeter loads from one cantilevering volume to another. Being mostly unobstructed by columns, the interiors feel wide and open. From the outside, the weightless quality of the building is enhanced by the lack of interlocking details where the boxes stack, creating and illusion of sliding volumes.
The concept of the office tower is to produce a variety of scales and appearances while maintaining a single, coherent identity. Although the tower may be seen as a sculpted object, the intention is to integrate it into an environment that still includes many buildings of different sizes and functions. Being on the edge of two urban zones, the multi-directional structure highlights this transition through its simple, but emphatic, form. There is no obvious front or back, nor are there any tiers that distinguish higher or lower portions of the tower. And yet it retains a distinct character that comes from the range of scales and orientations it encompasses. On the whole it is undeniably a 90m high glass building, but proportionally it is also a series of 4-storey structures. Even if the tower is only partially visible – be it from street level or within the skyline – it is identifiable and complete.