At its meeting on December 7, 2020 the Vancouver Heritage Commission strongly rejected the Cadillac Fairview development next to Waterfront Station.*

The vote was 2 in favour, and 8 against. The two members in support did not speak during the meeting so we do not know their reasons.

The Commission sent strong signals that the most appropriate use of the space is a public “Station Square” and asked City staff to explore density transfers to relieve any future development pressure.

Michael Kluckner explained that there are good juxtapositions of old and new, but not all juxtapositions are good. He gave three examples of  downtown projects (Stock Exchange, Royal Bank, and Post Office) to indicate that their evaluation was not a simple “anti-change” perspective.

_____________________________

 

* Draft resolutions from the Heritage Commission meeting of December 7. 2020

WHEREAS

1.The CPR Waterfront Station is a municipally designated building of historic importance to the City of Vancouver, an A on the Vancouver Heritage Register (VHR), and is the transportation hub for the downtown area, and

  1. The Kelly-Douglas Warehouse Building at 375 Water Street, also known as The Landing, is municipally designated and a B on the VHR, and
  1. The Angel of Victory monument is listed on the VHR monument registry, stands at the southeast corner of Waterfront Station, and is of approximately the same vintage as buildings 1 and 2, and
  1. The ensemble of 1, 2 and 3 represent a “Gateway to Gastown,” the HA-2 Historic Area, and a shift in scale and materiality from the more recent buildings of the City to the south and west to smaller, lower buildings primarily of masonry, together forming a richly coloured palette, and
  1. The City of Vancouver’s heritage policies include the following: “An addition to the side or rear of a heritage property may be considered, on a site-specific basis, subject to:

(i)         the availability of land on the development site to accommodate the addition,

(ii)        the impact on the existing heritage property, and architectural and urban design considerations.”

  1. There is insufficient land to accommodate the proposed size of the Waterfront Tower, as in 5(i), necessitating a cramped base and a significant cantilever above the Waterfront Station, and
  1. The City of Vancouver subscribes to the Standards and Guidelines for the Preservation of Historic Places in Canada, which states that additions to heritage buildings should be distinguishable, complementary and subordinate, and
  1. The proposed Waterfront Tower is not complimentary to buildings 1 or 2 either in its materiality or its angular form which visually clashes with its neighbours, as in 5(ii) and
  1. The proposed Waterfront Tower, while actually a separate building, is not subordinate due to its height and massing, including its cantilever above the Waterfront Station, and is sited so close to the station that from most angles the tower appears to be an addition to the station, and
  1. The Waterfront Hub Study framework, which is council policy, stipulates a transition in height from west to east and a distancing of new buildings from the Waterfront Station.

 

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT

The Vancouver Heritage Commission does not support the application to build the Waterfront Tower, or any other tower of the same materiality or size, on the proposed site.

And furthermore, the Commission requests that staff explore tools including zoning, transfer of density and density banking to relieve any future development pressure on the land adjoining Waterfront Station.

And furthermore, the Commission requests that staff explore tools including zoning, transfer of density and density banking to relieve any future development pressure on the land adjoining Waterfront Station.

And furthermore, the Commission requests that staff become engaged in finding a permanent solution to halt the deterioration of the Angel of Victory statue, which may involve its move inside the Waterfront Station, so that it can continue to speak of the sacrifices and futility of the First World War and of all wars.

And furthermore, the Commission requests that the future plaza design reflect consultation with the local First Nations.

Comments

  1. Am I the only one who finds it very strange that two members of the Vancouver Heritage Commission voted in favour of this proposed project?

  2. This thing keeps popping up like Dracula’s curse, first on hand then a body emerging from the ground. Cue the night moon, mist and pipe organ. A stake needs to be driven into its heart once and for all. I’m not convinced the Heritage Commission has enough sway to do that, though the majority certainly drove home the message that the Icepick will destroy any sense of heritage preservation with its gross intrusion.

    This project cannot be compared to other singular buildings (e.g. The Exchange) because the context is completely different. The proposal is also too clumsy and inelegant by comparison to other stand-alone heritage conversions. The old CPR Station, which will be pierced by the Icepick, resides at the terminus of a preserved low-rise 19th Century streetscape. The closest high rises are separated from the Station by the 26 metre-wide Cordova Street. Moreover, it overlooks the low-rise waterfront (with the exception of the intrusive Granville Square tower). Context is everything.

    There is also the conflict between public use (transit) and private use (the Icepick is a private office development as part of Cadillac Fairview / Ontario Teacher’s Pension Fund). The Station is a privately-owned public use space, which seems superficially contradictory, but a dominant public use relationship that could be protected with strong long-term leases. The Icepick will be 100% private space. This is symptomatic of the confusion between public and private, and a diminishment of the role public space has in our economy. Public uses are stabilizing forces while the private economy chugs up and down the market’s peaks and valleys, occasionally getting knocked to its knees by tectonic occurrences, like pandemics that put the question to the need for so much enclosed office space. My view is that good science will win the day and allow indoor social gatherings again, but that still doesn’t justify the Icepick from a design and use perspective.

    Guest links to London’s Shard development, which I am familiar with. The Shard is not a good comparison because it was part of an overall development that resulted in a major improvement to public use: transit. The Icepick doesn’t improve a single thing, let alone transit or public space. The Shard does not squash or pierce a heritage building. The Icepick does just that. What these developments do have in common is their form: vertical planes of glass with unusual angles set in a largely heritage context. However, The Shard is well-placed within a development that was designed around it. The Icepick is and always was a jamb-it-in job from from inception.

    The new juxtaposed with the old in London is very common and resulted mainly from the millions of tonnes of WWII ordnance dropped during the Blitz, creating craters and piles of rubble on one street while the next street filled with 19th Century tan brick buildings remained unscathed. The bombing was especially bad near the Thames, in Docklands and in the East End, but the bombing maps do indicate widespread damage to various degrees almost everywhere in London. This helps explain the abrupt transition from 18th and 19th century buildings to 20th and 21st century in places like Shad Thames and Spitalfields. And London Bridge Station.

    Vancouver has no such history and no justification for clumsily poking holes into its rare enough historical buildings — Class A buildings at that — and heritage districts, thereby eroding its architectural legacy.

    So is it possible to place ultra-modern structures into or next to protected heritage buildings without negative consequences? Absolutely! Turning to a couple of London references again, the Kings Cross project uses a steel skeleton and glass to create a half-dome to wonderful effect, essentially creating a great public space used as the functional central ticket hall. St. Pancras Station just across the street used a renovated glass barrel vault train shed (the largest in Europe) for the Eurostar service to Paris. The Great Court at the British Museum was glassed over with a brilliantly-executed split dome by Foster + Partners 20 years ago, and in my view is one of the finest public spaces in the world. In all these cases both the heritage and new are treated with respect and enhance each other.

    The above examples were rendered with horizontal, suspended glass domes hovering within a reasonable scale of the heritage rooftops, and enclose magnificent gathering places. Verticality has its place, but certainly not on this site. This could be the alternate design inspiration for a new mid-century Waterfront Station, one that decks over the railway tracks and creates thousands of square metres of new station floor space sheltered by glass domes and wooden arches, new local transit and regional commuter and intercity rail services, possibly a high-speed rail terminus for a West Coast line from Seattle and points beyond, an expanded SeaBus terminal, possibly a new underground platform for a North Shore SkyTrain line, and a high-capacity BC Ferries passenger-only service to two or three Island cities and the Sunshine Coast. This vision would make Waterfront Station one of the most diverse hubs on the continent. It should not entertain privatizing any space or function, and in fact should ideally be owned eventually by Port Metro Vancouver.

    Keep public space public.

    https://www.archdaily.com/219082/kings-cross-station-john-mcaslan-partners

    https://www.kingscross.co.uk/the-story-so-far

  3. This thing keeps popping up like Dracula’s curse, hands then body emerging from the ground. Cue the night moon, mist and pipe organ. A stake needs to be driven into its heart once and for all. I’m not convinced the Heritage Commission has enough sway to do that, though the majority certainly drove home the message that the Icepick will destroy any sense of heritage preservation with its gross intrusion.

    This project cannot be compared to other singular buildings (e.g. The Exchange) because the context is completely different. The proposal is also too clumsy and inelegant by comparison to other stand-alone heritage conversions. The old CPR Station, which will be pierced by the Icepick, resides at the terminus of a preserved low-rise 19th Century streetscape. The closest high rises are separated from the Station by the 26 metre-wide Cordova Street. Moreover, it overlooks the low-rise waterfront (with the exception of the intrusive Granville Square tower). Context is everything.

    There is also the conflict between public use and private space. The Station is a quasi privately-owned by Cadillac Fairview / Ontario Teacher’s Pension Fund, but essentially functions as a public space, which seems superficially contradictory. The dominant public use relationship could be retained with strong long-term leases. The Icepick will be 100% private office, save for the entry level.

    The project is a conflation between public and private space, and a diminishment of the vital role public space has in our economy. Public uses are stabilizing forces while the private economy chugs up and down the market’s peaks and valleys, occasionally getting knocked to its knees by tectonic force like pandemics that put the question to the need for enclosed, intensely social office space. In my view, good science will win the day and allow indoor social gatherings again, but that still doesn’t justify the Icepick from a design and use perspective.

    Guest links to London’s Shard development, which I am familiar with. The Shard is not a good comparison because it was part of an overall development that resulted in a major improvement to public use: transit. The Icepick doesn’t improve a single thing, let alone transit or public space. The Shard does not squash or pierce a heritage building. The Icepick does just that. The Shard is well-placed within a development that was designed around it. The Icepick is and always was a jamb-it job from from inception. Square peg, round hole. These developments do have one thing in common: their vertical planes of glass with unusual angles set in a largely heritage context.

    The new juxtaposed with the old in London is very common and resulted mainly from the millions of tonnes of WWII ordnance dropped during the Blitz, creating craters and piles of rubble on one street while the next street filled with 19th Century brick buildings remained unscathed. The bombing was especially bad near the Thames, in Docklands and in the East End, but the ordnance maps do indicate widespread damage to various degrees almost everywhere in London. This helps explain the abrupt transition from 18th and 19th century buildings to 20th and 21st century in places like Shad Thames and Spitalfields. And London Bridge Station. There, the abrupt old-new juxtaposition has a rational explanation.

    Vancouver has no such history and no justification for clumsily poking holes into its rare enough historical buildings — Class A buildings at that — and heritage districts, thereby eroding its architectural legacy. The Station heritage will, be greatly diminished by a towering imposition.

    Is it possible to place ultra-modern structures into or next to protected heritage buildings without negative consequences? Absolutely! Turning again to London, the Kings Cross project uses a steel skeleton and glass canopy to create a half-dome to wonderful effect, essentially creating a great public space used as the functional central ticket hall. It is scaled to the original building, not against it. St. Pancras Station just across the street renovated a formerly derelict glass and steel truss barrel vault train shed (the largest in Europe) for the Eurostar service to Paris. It’s awesome. The Great Court at the British Museum was glassed over with a brilliantly-executed split dome by Foster + Partners 20 years ago, and in my view is one of the finest public spaces in the world as well as being a model for adaptive reuse. In all these cases both the heritage and new are respectful of each other, and the whole seems greater than the sum of its parts as the result.

    The above examples were rendered with horizontal, suspended glass domes hovering within a reasonable scale and a similar elevation as the heritage rooftops. They enclose magnificent public gathering places, something that would complement the great hall of The Station and accommodate significant expansion in its purpose. The Icepick will do nothing to future proof the site.

    These clues could be the alternate design inspiration for an expanded mid-century Waterfront Station, one that would probably deck over the railway tracks to extend the existing 14 metre geodetic floor elevation over thousands of square metres of new station floor space, sheltered perhaps by glass domes and BC vernacular wooden arches. Waterfront needs to address future uses such as new local transit and regional commuter and intercity rail services, possibly a high-speed rail terminus for a West Coast line from Seattle and points beyond, an expanded SeaBus terminal, possibly a new underground platform for a North Shore SkyTrain line, and a high-capacity BC Ferries passenger-only service to two or three Island cities and the Sunshine Coast. This vision would make Waterfront Station one of the most diverse hubs around. It should not entertain privatizing any space or function, and in fact should ideally be owned eventually by Port Metro Vancouver.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *