// arthitectural / Interiors / Omer Arbel Office | 46 Water Street Heritage Building

Omer Arbel Office | 46 Water Street Heritage Building

Interiors Omer Arbel Office | 46 Water Street Heritage Building

Omer Arbel Office | 46 Water Street Heritage BuildingThe project consisted of a seismic upgrade and restoration of a heritage building in Vancouver’s historic gastown district, and a loft interior design project. The loft is organized around a new courtyard open to above, inserted into the heritage fabric of the building, allowing light into the centre of the very deep plan. All other interior elements are rendered crisply using precise,ly machined elements, conceived to stand in strong contract to the rough heritage fabric of the existing shell.

Omer Arbel Office | 46 Water Street Heritage Building

© Martin Tessler

Omer Arbel Office | 46 Water Street Heritage Building

© Martin Tessler

46 Water Street is located in the historical neighbourhood of Gastown in
 downtown Vancouver. The owner is a bachelor who became deeply invested in
 Gastown before its rundown warehouse spaces became fashionable. When he
>approached Omer Arbel, he asked for a home that would ‘just let the space
>be itself”.
 The space, had been practically abandoned, used as rough storage fora an
 appliance vendor. Arbel was handed a mess of clumsy interior walls and
 his task was to preserve the history that lurked there, all while
 overlaying it with a real, functional living space.

Omer Arbel Office | 46 Water Street Heritage Building

© Martin Tessler

Omer Arbel Office | 46 Water Street Heritage Building

© Martin Tessler

The first myth of Gastown living – that one must sacrifice fresh air and
greenery for the rush of city life – was dispelled in short order. Arbel
 knew that neither Water Street not Bloody Alley (the house back street is
called Bloody alley as it was used as an abbatoire for animals in the old
times) was going to offer lush vistas, so he created, at the heart of
this loft, a walled courtyard that only looked up to the sky. Light and
 breezes spill through its open top into the home and, when three of the
>courtyard’s wall roll away, one might easily stroll from room to room via
>a green cube garden.

Omer Arbel Office | 46 Water Street Heritage Building

© Martin Tessler


”Everywhere, we were just dropping these objects, these boxes, into the
 larger plan” says Arbel. Against a surround of vintage brick, for
example, the kitchen’s crisp white millwork hovers, with space a above
 and below to emphasize the box-within-a-box effect. One is constantly
 aware, here, of contemporary design as a sort of complement to (rather
 than an abolisher of) the original warehouse.

Omer Arbel Office | 46 Water Street Heritage Building

© Martin Tessler


Look up and you’ll see a network of original Douglas fir beams, lit up to
>dramatic effect by a set of skylights. There’s a five-foot volume between
 the beams and the building’s actual ceiling – another clearly defined
 envelope. Ultimately, though, Arbel’s loft does what a great loft ought
 to: it gets out of the way. “You want to revel in an open plan like
 this”, he says. “Part of the promise of living in a loft is the way
 nothing’s fixed.” There are no walls to break off the living space,
 kitchen or dining area, save for a couple of paper “soft walls”, which
 accordion, shift or disappear depending on the day’s whims.

Omer Arbel Office | 46 Water Street Heritage Building

© Martin Tessler

Arbel can create structure when it’s called for; he’s justly happy with
 the bathroom, where a vanity area, a tiled shower and a halo of light at
 the shower’s rear make up a set of three nesting boxes. But mostly this
 is a home where the owner’s superlative (and eclectic) collection of
 furnishing can take centre stage. Baroque chandeliers and Parisian cafe
 chairs share the space with Buddhas, Japanese wind socks and, of courser,
>Bocci’s 28 Series chandelier – also designed by Arbel.

Location: Vancouver, Canada
Architect: Omer Arbel Office
Photos: Martin Tessler

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