Illusion of two buildings: Fluid design for office redevelopment of Vancouver’s Central Steam plant

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      It looks like two buildings, but it’s actually just one.

      It’s an illusion created by the fluid design of the proposed office redevelopment of the Central Steam plant site in Downtown Vancouver.

      Located at the southeast corner of Beatty and West Georgia streets, the property is owned by Westbank Projects Corp.

      “As you walk up Georgia Street and turn on to Beatty, the building’s appearance constantly changes,” according to the rezoning application. “Sometimes it appears as a slender tower, and sometimes it appears as two.”

      The application for 720 Beatty Street notes that instead of “creating a wall”, the proposed 17-storey office tower will have a “form that is dynamic and permeable to the site’s unique location and qualities”.

      “Thanks to the overall fluid geometry of the building, the façade can look completely opaque or completely transparent,” the application explains. “This effect will create the illusion of looking at two buildings, rather than one continuous one when moving along its perimeter.”

      It also notes that because the design of the office building “creates the illusion of two buildings, it allows for multiple company logos, not just the anchor tenant”.

      “In addition, views along Beatty St and Georgia St create optimal space on the facade for high visibility as you approach,” the application states.

      The project includes upgrades to the energy plant that provides heat to over 210 buildings downtown.

      The current space taken up by the plant will be reduced in the new development. A portion of the energy facility will be transferred to a space within the adjacent BC Place Stadium.

      The project also includes a retail and entertainment pavilion to be located at a new plaza between the office development  and the stadium.

      Ian Gillespie of Westbank bought Central Heat Distribution Ltd., which owns the Central Steam site, in 2013 for $32 million.

      Later, the Westbank subsidiary that manages the facility, Creative Energy Vancouver Platforms Inc., made a rezoning enquiry with the City of Vancouver.

      In a council meeting in 2015, Green councillor Adriane Carr cast the sole dissenting vote on a staff recommendation to indicate that council is willing to consider a rezoning application.

      “We had a choice about who would operate the district energy,” Carr said at the time. “And it could have been the city.” 

      View of Westbank’s proposed office building with a retail and entertainment pavilion.