Arno Matis Architecture | Vertical Forest
Located in the heart of Mt. Pleasant, this project seeks to set a new standard of design sophistication in the area. Already recognized as one of Vancouver’s most desirable districts, this project is perched on one of the most coveted view sites in the City. Once a dense coastal rainforest, the site’s urban context is now bustling with some of the best bohemian restaurants and trendy bars. The project presents a contemporary design response that simultaneously captures the ‘atmospheres’ of the old and new Mt. Pleasant.
The site is located on the Broadway/Main/Kingsway intersection and is a pivot site as the diagonal of Kingway transitions to the orthogonal grid of Main Street. The massing approach responds to the flatiron condition of the site with strong diagonals setting the parti for the project. Materials are proposed in architectural concrete, curtain wall and a unique wood veneer glass panel developed by AMA specifically for the project. The rotation of the massing from diagonal to orthogonal creates tension in the structure that is expressive in the energy of the project. Roof decks offer spectacularly appointed outdoor garden areas. The project’s ‘vertical forest’ façade is a passive solar control strategy and an interpretation of filtered light through Vancouver’s evergreens.
As the building rises, the ‘residual form’ massing plays on flatiron geometries that relate to the intersection of diagonal and orthogonal street grids that converge on the site. This “responsive density” form-making by forces external to the site is a strategy that AMA is continuing to develop in its projects. At the Mt. Pleasant site, the simple massing blocks are seemingly pushed and pulled along slip planes to address views through and from the site. The rotation of massing from diagonal to orthogonal creates a powerful and dynamic energy that is embodied in the project. The residual forms result in a cascade of fully landscaped terraces and dramatic floating ‘tree canopy’ cantilevers. The form of the building is in effect a ‘signature’ of its context. In an urban setting, buildings should work together at a number of levels; they should share energy and benefit from their proximity. In effect buildings can and should work together in a kind of ‘urban ecosystem.’ With this approach each AMA design is absolutely unique to its location. The project represents an extremely sophisticated and sensitive contemporary design response that simultaneously captures the ‘atmosphere’ of old Mt. Pleasant.
Shadow and light
A forest is not exactly what comes to mind when one navigates the light industrial site perched near the top of Mt. Pleasant in one of Vancouver’s oldest and most desirable neighborhoods. Walking the barren sidewalks on the periphery of this area today, you would be hard-pressed to recall the imagery of the ancient forests that blanketed the area at the turn of the 20th century. In the search for ever more efficient buildings, AM A sought to capture those forest’s innate efficiency in filtering and controlling light by integrating a forest-like pattern into the building’s façade. The project’s ‘biomimetic’ strategies seek to increase the energy efficiency of the building. By mapping patterns of vertical shadows cast by adjacent structures, and responding to these by varying the location of transparent and solid glass panels, light and views can be controlled passively. The pattern, optimized to control light throughout the year, is actually created by an innovative new glass system complete with an eco-friendly wood panel integrated into a glazing unit, the first of its kind in the country.
The building itself accommodates a complex program of artist production, retail and residential uses in a variety of formats. The unlikely interaction between commercial tenants, residents and artists is what makes this proposal unpredictable and exciting. In addition to the interior programming, we programmed the exterior and off-site spaces, including the street edges along Main Street and 7th Avenue. We proposed to landscape and pedestrian-ize the lane and activate the lane edge with views directly into artist production spaces. Social spaces were distributed throughout the project and at various levels, including roof decks that create opportunities for interaction with occupants and the neighborhood. Here, as in other AM A projects, we maximized the opportunity to increase neighborhood connections and ‘put doors on the street’.
AMA’s ability to move quickly and provide real-time analytics in tandem with concept design development made the difference when assisting their Client in the creation of this development project; “The ability to integrate both design and financial analysis gives our clients confidence in proceeding with a deal, where others are relying on incomplete information or merely on intuition to invest.” – Arno Matis. When the Mt. Pleasant site first became available, AMA took an aggressive but comprehensive approach to the development potential of the site. “The window of opportunity to acquire the property was extremely small and our ‘realtime’ inhouse analysis allowed us to prove feasibility of the project before making a deposit on the land.” – Arno Matis
AM A was able to develop concept designs, create land valuation scenarios, establish a baseline proforma, and hold high level discussions with planning authorities before competitors were out of the gate. In a highly competitive environment AMA’s ‘realtime’ analysis process enabled the Client to move quickly through creatively realistic development scenarios and secure the site with a feasible development program. The information developed in the concept design process is used to inform design development, opening up unseen value-creating possibilities as the project progressed.
AMA takes its business mission as a service integrator seriously. “We now live in a world that is highly fragmented, with experts for everything, this fragmentation can slow the design process down considerably. By performing both design and analytic functions in ‘realtime’, the design process can advance in a fraction of the time, with much less value engineering than what is typically required in a conventional project methodology” - Arno Matis.
The ability to generate real, high-value opportunities is what sets AMA apart. An architect today must understand his or her value proposition and be comfortable working at all levels of project development from land acquisition, to concept design to project financing, to project approvals stages to construction and marketing. For AMA, their ability to identify and leverage up on opportunities quickly has creating new, unforeseen prospects for their clients and their firm.Location: Mount Pleasant, Vancouver, Canada Architect: Arno Matis Architecture Date: September, 2010
Size: 90,000 sq ft (8,360SM)
Status: Design Development
Sustainability standard: LEED Gold
Structural engineer: Fast + Epp Structural
Mechanical / electrical engineer: Cobalt Engineering
Landscape architect public engagement: Phillips Fervaag Smallenberg
Sustainability consultant: Cobalt Engineering
Code consultant: LMDG Code Consultants
Geotechnical engineer: Geopacific Engineering
Acoustical engineer: Brown Strachan Acoustic Consultants
Traffic: Bunt & Associates Transportation Engineering
Envelope consultant: Spratt Emanuel Engineering
Costing / CAC – BTY: Costing Consultants