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Mixed Use Design

Mixed Use Design

After years of visioning, planning and specifying passive design parameters, it was time to design the actual buildings that would create a new community on the shores of Southeast False Creek. The Millennium team included architects from Merrick Architecture and gBL Architects, and grew to include Nick Milkovich, Arthur Erickson, Rob Ciccozzi, Walter Francl and the firm of Acton Ostry. Their job was to breathe three-dimensional life into the idea of a new type of urban development – high density, highly livable, sustainable. The process began with integrated design meetings – where the team arrived at a set of principles that would be applied across all parcels – to articulate tangible elements of sustainable design and to provide some consistency from building to building. From a mostly abandoned and post-industrial site, architects conjured up the Olympic Village, filling in details from cladding and courtyards to gardens and glazing. This section tells the story of these emerging designs.

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gBL PARCEL 2

One of two parcels that includes non-market family housing, Parcel 2 is also distinctive because of its cladding: “spring green” fritted (enameled) glass panels attached with stainless steel studs. Glass and brick were chosen for their local availability and reduced carbon footprint.

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A market building overlooks Hinge Park on the west side of the parcel. The non-market building wraps around the other three sides of the courtyard. “We sought a seamless mix of the two,” says Stu Lyon of gBL Architects, “such that you wouldn’t be able to identify a market building versus a non-market building when you’re walking through the Village.”

North elevation of Parcel 2 as seen from Walter Hardwick Avenue.enlarge

North elevation of Parcel 2 as seen from Walter Hardwick Avenue.

The units on the wings of the non-market building have exterior corridors, giving residents fresh air on both sides of their suites. West-facing windows include sun shades and rain barrels collect water for gardening. A spacious glassed oval lobby creates a “ceremonial front door.” “Building this has been a fascination and a love – we really got to figure out how to make these concepts work,” says Tom Bell of gBL, designer of the non-market building. “One of the things I love is that I can image people living there, and enjoying it, and that they have a better life. It feels good.”

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The Friendly Roof

“On a typical building, the roof is a dead zone,” says Bell. “But on this [non-market] building, the roof has been designed for people. You can walk along your exterior corridor to an outdoor staircase, and go to the roof at any time.” The centre section of Parcel 2’s non-market building has an extensive green roof that traps and slows stormwater, protects the rooftop membrane and adds to the insulation value. The buildings’ two wings feature accessible areas where residents can garden, picnic or just pass the time outdoors. “It’s there as part of the social sustainability of the building,” says Bell. “Kids can play on the roof, people can grow vegetables there. In other buildings, you go from underground parking, up an elevator into a dark corridor to your unit. With this building, you have a safe place that’s not the street and not your house. It’s like a front yard where people can gather, a place where you can get some connectivity you don’t get on most buildings’ roofs. I believe it will be the social centre of the building.”

gBL PARCEL 5

The smallest parcel in terms of total floor space, Parcel 5 also mixes non-market family housing (the building on the centre and west of the parcel) with market housing (the building on the east edge of the parcel). At the southwest corner, Pocket Park offers a green refuge and will feature the Canron gantry crane as a reminder of the site’s industrial heritage. Rooftop gardens offer residents another outdoor amenity. Unit sizes for non-market housing are dictated by BC Housing. For the market building, however, gBL decided to add some lower-priced units to the Olympic Village mix. “We developed a small unit on Parcel 5,” says Stu Lyon of gBL. “We were looking to make a point of difference there by designing a market unit averaging around 565 square feet. They’re through units [opening to the outdoors on both sides] so those were fun to do, a little different.”

One of many suite variations on Parcel 5, this one offering one bedroom plus enlarge

One of many suite variations on Parcel 5, this one offering one bedroom plus

Parcel 5’s market building also hosts two storeys of retail space facing east to the Salt Building. The commercial façade will be highlighted with red awnings over shop windows, matching similar awnings on Parcel 9’s commercial windows.

Designing the Social Experience

Stu Lyon oversaw design across the gBL parcels (2, 5 and 9), focusing on connections between buildings as well as the structures themselves. “We tried to add some assets we expect in single-family neighbourhoods,” he says. “You walk along the sidewalk under boulevard trees, say hi to a neighbour, pick up a toy and move it out of the way, enter a front door that is personalized. We tried to bring that feeling into the buildings. “We’ve always said maybe we could engineer vertical streets instead of cold elevator lobbies and dark corridors. So our corridors are very animated. They’re all daylit, so you know what the weather is outside and you can see people on the street and they can see in. We wanted those good feelings of the street indoors. “On the street, there’s always interest and animation: individual residences with windows and porches and stairs; patios and barbecues; storefronts; interesting lobbies that are very permeable, very glassy. “I think [this type of design] is pioneering,” says Lyon. “It’s interesting socially and from a livability point of view. But there’s nothing particularly iconic about it; it’s really just a great backdrop and hopefully a great place to live.”

Elevation drawings show Parcel 5's buildings as seen from the north on Walter Hardwick Avenue (bottom) and from the east on Manitoba Street.enlarge

Elevation drawings show Parcel 5

Street. Inset detail of the scale model shows the colour palette of deep orange and dark greys. Construction photos taken August 2009. 15enlarge

Inset detail of the scale model shows the colour palette of deep orange and dark greys. Construction photos taken August 2009.

gBL PARCEL 9

Elevation drawing from Walter Hardwick Avenue. The ground floor space on the right side of the image will be the location of the grocery store.enlarge

Elevation drawing from Walter Hardwick Avenue. The ground floor space on the right side of the image will be the location of the grocery store.

One of the largest parcels in terms of developed area, Parcel 9 is also complex, with a mix of market and non-market housing, plus commercial uses. A “net zero” building – designed to produce as much energy as it uses – it captures waste heat from the food store and heats water with solar energy. The building will be used for non-market seniors’ housing. On its east side, the market building features an undulating glass wall. “The curved wall gave us the opportunity to better align the suites with the view,” says Stu Lyon of gBL. “It orients them in part towards the water and breaks up the mundane square wall.”

The east façade of Parcel 9 features wavy glass walls that expand residents' views.enlarge

The east façade of Parcel 9 features wavy glass walls that expand residents

Designing each façade differently to respond to different environmental factors was interesting, says Lyon. “The sunny side of the building has a different design than the shady side,” he says. “It’s much more typical to conceive of a building with all four sides the same.” One challenge was planning for truck access to the grocery store. “We had a requirement to accommodate the largest size of truck allowed into the City of Vancouver, and this site was not built to allow that size of truck,” says Lyon. “So the complexity of that building was unusual!”

Integrated Design Process

“Once upon a time once you’d hire an architect, he’d do a site plan for you and then he’d build it,” says Tom Bell. “That model is just about gone.” Design for the Olympic Village buildings began with an integrated design process where participants worked to articulate shared principles and solve mutual problems. “Having structural, mechanical, electrical, landscape all together, all informing each other, was great,” remembers Bell. “At the start-up phase, you don’t really know how it ought to turn out. You’re learning together.” Stu Lyon agrees. “It was interesting, a lot of dialogue and sometimes heated discussions around interpreting what’s good green building practice. I haven’t worked on anything more complex; this is the most dynamic group of players and requirements I’ve encountered. It’s been very exhilarating.” Creating a building that responds to its environment produces new design outcomes, says Bell. “It’s all based on the specific conditions the building will experience,” he says, “instead of towers you could put in Edmonton or Toronto that are all the same.” Bell believes the work that was done will help create lasting change. “These changes will go back and be embedded in the building code – all it takes is time. Hopefully we’ve moved the bar up a level.”

Merrick PARCEL 3

Running through the centre of the Olympic Village site are Parcels 3, 6, and 10, designed by Merrick Architecture Borowski Lintott Sakumoto Fligg Limited. These buildings are heavily context-oriented, since they predominantly face other Village venues. Paul Merrick provided concept sketches for the parcels, but from there it was up to three designers to bring the concepts to life. Mitch Sakumoto took Parcel 3, with its three buildings, 180,000 sf of living space and 164 suites. A “bookend” building, the design incorporates a woven glass façade and deep balconies on the west side to make the most of views onto Hinge Park and Habitat Island. “This parcel is a great example of how the design of the village will really promote walking and meandering in and out of the buildings,” says Sakumoto. A pedestrian walkway connects north-sound from Parcel 2 through to Parcel 4 right down to the seawall. Another path cuts east from Parcel 3’s courtyard into Parcel 6. “It’s going to be a great neighbourhood for people – livable and vibrant,” he says. “People will want to gather and live there.”

Renderings of Parcel 3 highlight material details on the balconies, and a strong presence from the ground.enlarge

Renderings of Parcel 3 highlight material details on the balconies, and a strong presence from the ground.

Designing Diversity

“Three personalities, but one family,” says Rob Ciccozzi, as he describes his experience designing one of the three Merrick parcels. “Paul’s a strong designer with strong ideas, so we all drew from his sketches. Then we dressed them up in our own way.” “Having different architects for the parcels was good,” says Mitch Sakumoto. “We didn’t want them to look too similar. There are differences; they’re not homogeneous. In any case, it was happening so quickly we were basically designing simultaneously!” “If you go building to building you can see a different hand at work even within a similar palette of materials,” agrees Greg Borowski. “It crops up in small details – the proportion of things is different, even though there’s an overall vocabulary of strong horizontal lines and anchoring vertical pieces common to all the parcels. The stone coursing is different on the parcels, and the guardrail details are completely different. But overall they are a family. Across the site, I like that there are other voices in there as well. It enriches it.” “There’s a common thread across the whole site, despite a lot of personalities,” says Ciccozzi. “With the plaza, the street design, the interior courtyards – it’s not just the building form itself, it’s the in-between spaces that bring it all together quite nicely.”

Sun shades installed on the south west corner of Parcel 3 provide passive design benefits by shielding afternoon sun from penetrating into the stairwells, keeping them cool and inviting to use.enlarge

Sun shades installed on the south west corner of Parcel 3 provide passive design benefits by shielding afternoon sun from penetrating into the stairwells, keeping them cool and inviting to use.

Merrick PARCEL 6

“All the sides of these parcels respond to their immediate context,” says Rob Ciccozzi, designer of Merrick Parcel 6. “This parcel has the marina in front, and the plaza and Parcel 10 on the east, so the architectural elements try to respond to those. The south side is a response to the sun, with its sun control elements. On the west side there’s the public path going through, and also the east elevation of parcel 3. “All three Merrick parcels have courtyards incorporating water. In this parcel, it’s a little waterfall, but it’s a calm element, like a Zen garden. In Parcel 10 they really made a story of the water; there’s more drama.”

Elevation drawings of Parcel 6 showing views from the east (Manitoba Street and the plaza) and the north (Athletes Way and the marina).enlarge

Elevation drawings of Parcel 6 showing views from the east (Manitoba Street and the plaza) and the north (Athletes Way and the marina).

“A key challenge I had with this project was to bring some order to it. Out of 200 units there are 80 unit types, plus we have market housing, rental, and commercial. There’s a separation between them, but also common areas serving both. It was also interesting because for 10 years I’ve been trying to make my units smaller and smaller – but some of these units are quite large. That was a challenge too, to make sense of the space.”

Design to Deadline

Throughout the shared experience of developing the Olympic Village, there is a common story: the pressure of an inflexible deadline. For the Merrick architects, the challenge started in early 2007.

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The courtyard in Parcel 6 (shown here under construction) will include a little waterfall, a calm element

“We went through four or five iterations on Parcel 6 with the client sitting right next to us,” recalls Rob Ciccozzi. “We’d do eight hour stints – they’d bring lunch in, I’ve got the tracing paper, we’re coming up with solutions then and there. I’ve never had to do that before. I enjoyed it to some degree, but it was draining, it was a lot of pressure.” “The toughest thing for me was my perfectionist nature,” says Greg Borowski. “This process was like you go, go, go, you don’t look back. If anything is off to the side you gather it in and keep moving forward. And I don’t think anything has been shortchanged, because the timelines also meant if you made a design decision, it’s actually happened. There wasn’t time for things to get reconsidered and cut. “I felt that it pushed my game a little bit – it’s that chaos/opportunity concept. It caused frustrations, but it’s also been sort of exciting – more satisfying than I would have expected.”

All parcels feature courtyards that offer a semi-private refuge from the more public street. The courtyard in Parcel 6 (shown here under construction) will include a little waterfall, a calm element enlarge

All parcels feature courtyards that offer a semi-private refuge from the more public street.

Merrick PARCEL 10

“There’s a 20 foot high dark stone water wall in Parcel 10, like a waterfall inside the building,” says architect Greg Borowski with satisfaction. “It appears to bring water from the Level 3 exterior courtyard down to the ground floor main lobby below a structural glass atrium.” Parcel 10 is among the largest in the Olympic Village, with a total of 225,000 sf and 186 suites. The west side includes two storeys of retail space facing the plaza, with arcades that create sheltered gathering spaces. The west side also features exterior blinds to manage sun exposure. “Having them on the face of the building means you have an ever-changing façade,” says Borowski. “Maybe they’re all open in the morning, maybe all closed in the evening, maybe a mix. The facade could practically be a sheet of fabric, or you’ll see the glass and limestone. I also like that you can be out on your balcony but put your blind down – outdoors but private. Where else in an urban environment can you do that?”

An elevation drawing of Parcel 10 as seen from the south, on Walter Hardwick Avenue.enlarge
At right, construction photos show details of balconies and exteriors, including an exterior corridor facing into the courtyard (bottom left). This ensures suites receive fresh air from both sides.enlarge

An elevation drawing of Parcel 10 as seen from the south, on Walter Hardwick Avenue.

The Street-level Experience

“This is a neighbourhood where you really feel the buildings, rather than look up at them,” says Greg Borowski. “So often, buildings are built to be looked up at, but with the narrow roadways and little pedestrian pathways everywhere, this is such a different urban environment than elsewhere in Vancouver.” “There were a lot of birds-eye perspectives done at first, but we tried to come down to grade,” says Rob Ciccozzi. “What’s it going to feel like for people walking along the street? That’s an important part of design. Things like little stairwells where the building connects to the public space, and you bring the public space in. A lot of effort went into that.” “I like that we added limestone,” says Mitch Sakumoto. “It’s a good choice; it adds a nice quality at street level.” “These aren’t “object” buildings, you’re not admiring them at a distance” says Borowski. “When you’re walking around, it’s the details that you see. You look more closely at the materials, the railings, the steps, the terraces, the textures, the patterning of the materials. I find the limestone really beautiful. It’s heavy and enduring. And it has all these fossils – millions of years ago, there was a little sea mollusk, and there it is, in the village.

At left, one of several suite plans shows a one bedroom plus enlarge

At left, one of several suite plans shows a one bedroom plus

An Erickson Touch: PARCEL 4

Jutting into False Creek and surrounded by open space on three sides is Parcel 4 of the Olympic Village. Architects Arthur Erickson and Nick Milkovich collaborated on the conceptual design for the parcel. Brian Sim, of IBI/HB Architects, carried out subsequent contract phases. “We were lucky, we got a great site,” says Milkovich of the commission. “The issue is to live up to it.” Originally, there was a U-shaped footprint for the building, but the team didn’t want corner suites looking into each other. Erickson argued for removing the centre and shifting the density to two higher buildings flanking a north-south walkway. “Arthur said it opened the middle and let the sun through to the waterfront,” says Milkovich. “It opened the view of Parcel 3, and created a nice public space.” Managing the height became a challenge, however, due to a public garden to the west. “We leaned the back end to avoid shading at certain times of day,” says Milkovich. “Then you have to lean the other side to counteract it, for seismic reasons. That’s how the form came about.” “What excited us was how to clad something like that,” he says. “You can’t do the standard glazing system, so we came up with something we call fishscale – a series of metal panels that crowd each other to follow the shape. It’s texture; it floats around the shape.” With the death of Arthur Erickson in May 2009, Parcel 4 is the last design by one of Canada’s most revered architects.

Design with a Twist

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It’s described as a deck of cards that are twisted – each floor offset so the shape of the building changes as it rises. But a simple description doesn’t translate to simple construction. “The design is extremely intricate, extremely complicated,” says Doug Dalzell of Keith Panel Systems, the company that engineered the building’s cladding. “To comprehend what Erickson was up to takes a lot of time, because it’s very subtle. There are over 7,000 panels on the job, and hardly one the same as any other.” “Very little was not challenging,” agrees architect Brian Sim. He gives multiple examples: unstable post-industrial soils, parking below sea level, contractors developing city streets and waterfront at the same time and the site-wide challenges of implementing sustainability measures against the Olympic deadline. “It was intriguing, and fulfilling,” says Sim. “There’s going to be a great sigh of relief when [the Village] is done. But it was one of those things you like to be involved with. It’s going to stand out as an example of how progress can be made.”

Parcel 4 under construction.enlarge

Parcel 4 under construction.

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