How did the proposal for the Hotel Georgia tower go from this:
Bing Thom Hotel Georgia
To this:
Georgia tower
PT Reader Timothy Thomas speculates:

Sadly, I find that the fascinating “Crystal Spike” design by Bing Thom, perhaps the most remarkable design for a downtown building in the last 40 years, has been junked in favour of another rectangular box, slightly altered. Why are we going for the same old tired design yet again? Are we afraid of brilliance? Intimidated by imagination? Is asymmetrical splendour threatening?  Put the two designs side by side and weep.  For all our purported hip, cutting edge sensibility, Vancouver seems to have the aesthetic instincts of a dull octogenarian.   

And then concludes:

After a cup of coffee, a thought occurs to me: the change in design of the Hotel Georgia condo/office tower reveals not so much a lack of taste and imagination as it does a love of money. A rectangular box maximizes sellable space but an irregular form, however brilliant, does not. (How naive of me not to have fully understood this before.) Who knows how many other beautiful designs were abandoned because of greed? But I wonder if it’s short-sighted for a developer to look only at square-footage when mulling a design. Wouldn’t people pay more to live or work in a one-of-a-kind gem, rather than in something formulaic? (An instructive comparison would be the two BC Hydro buildings built a couple of generations apart) Or are you and I in the minority when it comes to a passion for distinctive civic beauty?

You can find more on the Hotel Georgia plan (and a video of the Woodward’s demo) on at Pacific Metropolis, a great local site that tracks Vancouver’s urban development. (Thanks to Paul Krueger for the link.)


  1. Actually, it wasn’t greed, it was city council and their stupid view cones. They wouldn’t let them build the Crystal Tower, so the original developer eventually sold the property. Go ask Bing Thom what he has to say about city hall and this project. The new developer, a Seattle-based company, came up with this. They’re supposed to be specialists in building alongside heritage buildings. This isn’t a very good design though.
    Interestingly, money doesn’t seem to be an issue – they could have built this one a little taller (which means more money), but for some reason, they’ve stayed at 48 stories, rather than go to about 50.

  2. Although City Council rejected the idea of Bing Thom’s 600ft tower on the site, it did ultimately approve a variance for a 531ft tower on the site (the variance being very specific to Bing Thom’s design, where the portion exceeding the view cone comprised only a glass box “finger” 8ft by 8ft by 20ft tall. I don’t think that the City’s views on the view cones have changed all that much in the past couple of years (the Bay parkade project will be the watershed decision on that issue), meaning that a taller tower would have been an uphill battle, and certainly not one that would have been won in time to complete the project before 2010.
    The Urban Design Panel minutes for the current proposal (non-support) are posted on the City’s website, and it appears that the redeeming feature of the new design isn’t the tower, but the ground plane and its interaction with the Hotel Georgia. The newspapers mentioned that the existing ballroom (which occupies the space behind the L-shaped block) would be demolished and reconstructed (in its original form) so that the project could have fully underground parking (unlike the Bing Thom project which had a smaller footprint and a combination of underground and above-grade mechanized parking). The removal of the mechanized parking from the lower levels of the tower appears to have allowed the project to adopt an articulated floorplate in its lower levels (whereas a mechanized parking scheme would have required a rectangular floorplate for functionality). In turn, the articulated floorplate appears to have opened up the entance to the hotel from Howe Street. Those lower levels would probably also allow a better connection to the existing Hotel Georgia.
    The UDP wasn’t satisfied with the top of the tower, nor the balconies, so with refinement (but unlikely to be an overhaul), the tower will hopefully be improved. But I do like what has happened with the ground plane.

  3. Also, I recall that the Bing Thom tower was based on an 8ft module (the finger at the top was 8ftx8ft, as were other setbacks and overhangs on the tower). It sounds like Delta Lands is going more upmarket for the new project, and I’ll bet that the 8ftx8ft module didn’t work for them.
    I also recall that the Bing Thom tower was based on a concept that was originally proposed by the architect in Bing Thom’s office for One Wall Centre (a highly faceted tower, at the time proposed to be gold in colour), but ultimately redesigned. So if it’s a dream of the architect (whose name escapes me at the moment) to see a highly faceted tower built in Vancouver, hopefully we’ll see the crystal tower sometime, somewhere in the future.

  4. The City’s planning department has corrected the UDP minutes for the Hotel Georgia tower – it has the support of the UDP. It was incorrectly posted as “non-support”.
    as a result, who knows whether there’ll be many changes before it goes to the DPB.

  5. I think that, like so many other (architectural) opportunities that have been wasted, this once again represents either (or both) a beurocratic or corporate mis-guidedness in favor of political or financial expedience.
    This is not only a loss to the citizens of Vancouver, but a loss to the visitors who would otherwise have appreciated something really special…just look at the travesty happening in Lower Manhattan!

  6. The BTA tower was designed by Chris Doray and myself while acting as directors with the firm. In addition to this project we were responsible for the Aberdeen Center, Surrey City Centre , Arena Stage and the Sunset Community Centre.
    We have since left the organization to begin a new practise ( focussed on delivering the next generation of visionary projects in the City of Vancouver and beyond

  7. I would add that Bing is a most talented and gracious visionary and deserves plenty of credit for making the people of Vancouver aware of the incredible potential of our city. It is a shame that Bing Thom’s crystal tower vision did not become a reality, but I am sure we will see more great ideas from BTA in the future!

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