And now for something completely different in architecture

Proposed waterfront building breaks free of what has gone before, and could be a much needed bridge to a new city skyline

By Pete McMartin – Vancouver Sun, April 28, 2011

From the Granville Bridge, the view of Yaletown and False Creek is the envy of urban North America – shiny glass condominium towers housing a growing downtown population.

It’s also uniform. The orientation is overwhelmingly vertical. The colours come from the same muted palette. The towers are either a silvery white as pale as a November sky, or a green glass the shade of saltchuck. The green is called seafoam. There’s so much seafoam downtown that the towers seem like a mirror image of the water they front.

In the span of the city’s history, those towers are brand new. But in the more ephemeral world of architecture, they’re been-there-done-that. Seafoam and glass towers are old hat.

“One of the identifying tenets of what we call ‘Vancouverism,” said architect Bruce Haden, “is the fact that Vancouver has succeeded in doubling its downtown population in 25 years.

“And the ‘tower and podium’ model” (where you have a condominium tower surrounded by a base of town houses and retail outlets) “has been a very successful model in increasing that downtown population.

“But when you have buildings going up so fast, and you’re using the same technology and techniques, inevitably, the building design gets a little dull.

“It’s a sea of sameness.” He isn’t alone in thinking so. Frances Bula, my colleague at The Globe and Mail, recently did a piece on the architectural community’s growing boredom with glass-clad towers. They’re fast and cheap to erect -glass is cheap cladding -but they do little to give the cityscape a memorable texture.

In her piece, Bula wrote that some architects were experimenting with bolder colours and claddings to break up the sameness of those towers.

But Haden, and fellow architect Joost Bakker, are trying something different.

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Vancouver Sun