This evening, the public will have a chance to offer input on an application to allow a large retractable screen on the new Telus Garden building in downtown Vancouver.
Henriquez Partners Architects is seeing an amendment to the city's sign bylaw on behalf of the developer, Westbank Corp., and Telus to permit a retractable 7.5 metre by 11 metre "media sign". It would be on the west side of 520 West Georgia Street facing Seymour Street.
Rhiannon Mabberley, development manager for Westbank Projects, told the Georgia Straight by phone that if the application is approved, the sign will be visible "mostly from the pedestrian realm".
"It’s got a great vantage point from the corner of Seymour and Georgia," Mabberley said. "You would see it kind of all the way up to Granville and Georgia, and probably halfway through the block on Georgia before Richards.”
She emphasized that it won't carry advertising messages and instead, the intention is to provide a vehicle for local artists—be they professional, emerging, or school groups—to display their work on a large screen.
"I would love it if festivals made use of it," Mabberley said. "Obviously, step one is getting it approved by city council."
The city is hosting an open house runs from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. this evening in the Allegro boardroom of the Westin Grand Hotel (433 Robson Street).
Telus Garden includes a 22-storey office building and a 47-storey residential tower.
The media façade is between the 16th and 18th floors of the office building, which fronts on West Georgia Street. It would be powered by backlit-projection technology, which can only work in low-light conditions.
"There’s a large protrusion on the side of the building that we refer to as a 'sky garden'," Mabberley explained. "On the inside of that, it kind of reads like a glass box from the outside of the building. And on the inside of that glass, a screen drops down.”
This is several floors above the cantilever that extends over Seymour Street.
The screen would be programmed to show images at dusk and be turned off at 11 p.m., she added. Below the screen along West Georgia is a public plaza in front of Telus Garden's office component. It's covered by a large wooden and glass canopy.
"In the next couple of weeks when Telus Garden opens, the whole ground floor of Georgia Street except for a small corner on Seymour is really a plaza that’s open to the public,” she said.
According to Mabberley, backlit media signs already exist on buildings in Melbourne, San Francisco, Montreal, and other cities.
"We get criticized a lot in Vancouver for being a city of glass," she said. "It’s a great way of animating that glass façade.”
Meanwhile, Westbank is also planning to create an urban theatre under the Granville Bridge in connection with another one of its projects, Vancouver House.
Screens will face down from underneath the bridge deck, but Mabberley said that these these won't employ backlit-production technology.
"We're really lucky at Telus Garden to have that atrium that supports that kind of technology, but that's not a condition that we have in every building," she noted.