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Kenneth Chow, M.Eng., P.Eng., P.E., C.P., M.S.F.P.E.

Principal, Pioneer Consultants

As the certified professional and code consultant on the project, Ken Chow facilitated the balancing act of ensuring that the project would proceed on schedule, retain its architectural identity and comply with code regulations every step of the way. By doing this, he helped to ensure that the buildings would be able to obtain occupancy permits quickly, on deadline. “The thing I enjoyed most on this project was resolving difficulties – working with contractors and consultants to solve problems without sacrificing compliance or quality,” says Chow. Chow and his team at Pioneer were responsible for delivering “alternative solution” reports when the project did not conform to code requirements – a frequent occurrence in a project with this level of complexity. Many of the sustainable design features applied at the Village were considered unconventional from a code point of view. These reports describe how the design team’s approach, while “unconventional”, still complied with code. On the topic of deadlines, Chow says he was not overwhelmed by the pressure of the Olympics’ fixed schedule. On the contrary, he says, “I am used to fast-tracking. I thrive on a tight deadline.” This is understandable, considering he has over 32 years of experience in the industry, including other mega-projects such as EXPO ’86 and the Coquihalla Highway.


Principal, GBL Architects

Tom Bell started his career with a degree in environmental design at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Encompassing multiple disciplines – architecture, interior design, industrial design – it was also heavily influenced by the nascent environmental movement of the time. “We learned how to do environmental sensitivity analysis,” he says. “It gave me a very strong interest in environmental protection.”

Bell then studied architecture at the University of Calgary Faculty of Environmental Design and worked in Calgary for 14 years, coming to Vancouver in 1989.

Bell greatly enjoyed enhancing the sustainability performance of his building in Olympic Village. “I haven’t had the chance to do a fully functional green roof to this extent before,” he says. “We’ve learned all sorts of valuable things that we’ll take to the next project.”

Bell says it will be difficult to go back to designing standard buildings. “I saw a building in Kelowna recently with this huge glazed element out front. It looked nice, but with 30 degree weather it was introducing this huge solar gain into the building. Those buildings are going to go extinct because we can’t afford them anymore, on any level. They’re the dodo birds of the past.”

A profile of Stu Lyon was published in Chapter Two.

Mitch Sakumoto, DipT, BArch, MAIBC, MRAIC

Merrick Architecture Borowski Lintott Sakumoto Fligg Ltd.

A partner at Merrick Architecture since 2004, Mitch Sakumoto enjoyed the unusual challenge of the Olympic Village project, where he designed Parcel 3.

“The timeframe was challenging: trying to achieve the client’s goals and making sure that we can get the suites right, have the proper elevations, and design what they considered to be timeless and elegant, all at the same time,” he says. “Usually something like that takes another third to half as long. Seeing your project realized so quickly – that’s enjoyable.”

Sakumoto says the project provided a valuable learning curve. “It was interesting to see the implementation of sustainability initiatives, and it’s becoming really relevant in design these days, something that we in architecture should be thinking about. For me, the project made me more aware of a lot of those initiatives.”

“It’s something that I’ve started incorporating in my work more than I did before. I’m working on another project with much higher density, and we have similar through-units and courtyards in the middle. So it’s starting to make change; I’m pushing in that direction. I think it’s a good model.”

Rob Ciccozzi, MAIBC, AIA

Robert Ciccozzi Architecture Inc.

After studying at Carleton University, Rob Ciccozzi worked for Paul Merrick Architects Ltd. for five years, taking on projects such as City Square, the Medical Student and Alumni Centre and the Royal Roads Military College Dining Hall. In 1992 he started an independent practice that has grown to 20 people.

Asked to join Merrick to support its work designing three parcels in the Olympic Village, Ciccozzi found himself stepping into a lead role on Parcel 6 when the original architect slipped on ice and project timelines would not allow a delay until he could return.

“By then a lot of conceptual work was done,” says Ciccozzi. His challenge was to “bring order to the program” on a parcel with 200 units and about 80 different unit types.

Ciccozzi says the design process may have benefitted from the intensity of deadline pressure. “All these things happening so fast worked to our advantage in a way. [The Village] has the diversity of a lot of different personalities on site. There’s still a common thread; the in-between spaces glue it all together quite nicely. I’m happy with the way it turned out, and proud to be part of the team.”

ITC Construction Group

ITC Construction Group is one of Western Canada’s leading General Contractors and has been recognized as one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies every year since 2003.

ITC played a key role in building Olympic Village, responsible for the construction of 530,000 square feet of residential and commercial space. The scope of the project, combined with coordination of a huge consultant team and the grueling schedule were all challenges that ITC faced on a daily basis as it fast-tracked through the project. “There are reasons why nobody normally does all of these types of works at once,” says Brent Olund, ITC’s Project Director. “The coordination implications have been profound.”

Among the coordination challenges was the safe operation of 12 tower cranes with many overlapping each other on the construction site at one time. “Imagine a tower crane operator having to talk to individuals on six different radios at once and safely focus on the task at hand,” says Olund. To prevent accidents, ITC trained its own crane operators and those from MetroCan to use TAC-3000, a tower crane anti-collision system never before used in Canada.

Thanks to the safety efforts of a conscientious construction team, the project achieved below industry average workforce injury rates.

Greg Borowski, MAIBC, MRAIC, BA, BArch (Hons)

Merrick Architecture Borowski Lintott Sakumoto Fligg Ltd.

While studying history, Borowski realized his real love was architecture, so he enrolled in architecture at UBC. While there, Borowski invited Paul Merrick – an architect he admired – to join his thesis advisory team. To his surprise, Merrick accepted – and then hired him upon graduation.

Borowski has worked on many downtown projects, but is intrigued by the new model presented in the Olympic Village, where he designed Parcel 10. “Rather than simply sticking towers up in the sky, this shows there are ways to densify that are arguably more livable. I’ve designed a number of downtown high-rises, and I’d prefer to live [in the Olympic Village]; I believe this will be a better model. You get levels of density that are sustainable – they support mass transit – without casting shadows everywhere. The narrower scale of the streets is a more efficient use of land; it lets you have larger courtyards and larger green roofs. I think it’s exciting that maybe people who develop land might think this is viable. It will be more sustainable in every sense – not just in terms of energy, but in terms of social mix and the pleasantness of your life.”

Nick Milkovich, MAIBC, FRAIC

Nick Milkovich Architects Inc.

“Becoming an architect is a long maturing process,” says Nick Milkovich, reflecting on a lifetime of craft. “It’s a lifelong journey of exploration, and in that is the joy.”

Milkovich enjoyed his work on the Olympic Village, particularly the collaborative problem solving with other building professionals as the team brought Erickson’s twisting building design to life. “I enjoy the act of building something,” says Milkovich. “I had a feeling that in today’s world of time and budget concerns the ideal and pride of building exceptionally was slipping away. But there are times when everyone is intrigued by the challenges of a project where the people doing the work get excited and take pride in their efforts. In some respects that was evident on the Olympic Village project. I hope some of that enthusiasm can be built on.”

Milkovich says the evolution of architecture towards sustainable design is crucial. “I think [sustainable design] is really common sense. Even if we didn’t have to do this because of the abused environment, it’s the right thing to do. We’ve just beaten up on the planet and taken from it, and it’s time to get in sync.”

Arthur Erickson, In Memorium

Arthur Erickson, celebrated internationally as Canada’s best-known architect, died on May 20, 2009. With his involvement in two of its parcels, the Olympic Village has become the home of his last designs.

His influence reaches beyond his own work, however. In recognition of his contributions not only as a designer but as a mentor to many in the Vancouver community, The Challenge Series invited several of Erickson’s colleagues to share their memories of him.

In 1973 I was just out of school and thrilled to get my first job in Arthur’s office. What left an impression on me were team meetings. There was equality, in that everyone was there. You were not discouraged from giving your opinion; in his office, it was about developing ideas. The “stramps” [combination stairs and ramp] at the law courts, for example – it got put out there by a young graduate and it stuck, it got built.

The culture allowed everybody to be a part of the process. Both my partner and I worked with Erickson, and we both feel that a studio environment is the way to run a practice, where the best idea is what’s important. In terms of the process and the environment, I think we did take away something from Arthur. The way we work here, I’m trying to nurture that.

Russ Chernoff
Chernoff Thompson Architects

Arthur really stayed true to his craft. That was his mentoring, to show people you can stick to a discipline. I don’t care if you’re building thatched roof cottages; you didn’t have to compromise. That strength was also Arthur’s weakness, why a lot of people were hesitant to deal with him – he didn’t waver, he stayed on message. That’s the most important thing he could show young architects: that it’s okay to not be everything to everybody.

Whether you’re a big fan of Arthur Erickson or not, we Canadians don’t celebrate our achievements enough. I thought Arthur was a part of the fabric of Canada, and it was really important to get him down there [to the Olympic Village]. He left Canada’s mark on the world, he carried that flag and torch for us. I think we should celebrate the few world citizens we have. Whether controversial or celebrated, he still was doing it.

Bob Rennie
Rennie Marketing Systems

I started in 1973 in Arthur’s office and was there for nineteen years. It was an incredibly young multicultural office, which was exciting. It was a real adventure.

People often talk about Arthur’s office as a learning office. His approach was one of no preconceptions in terms of solution; rather, a profound understanding of program and site. The testing, the searching for solutions was a wonderful experience; the idea would lead you, it was bigger than the participants. The youngest people on staff really got Arthur’s ear; he had a talent for including layers of ideas from a wide palette of people.

In addition to the big names, there’s a whole generation of architects whose names you may not know, but they talk about how that experience in his office influenced their career and thinking, and the importance of architecture in their lives.

Rainer Fassler

I had Arthur as a studio professor, then worked with him after school. He wouldn’t direct you, he was very Socratic. I wondered when he was going to teach me something! But he would ask questions and get you to find out on your own.

There was some variety of opinion about what our role was as his associates. Some thought we were interpreters of Arthur. I didn’t buy into that; I thought we were co-explorers with him. He would intimate something, or ask questions, and it would come.

That was always the interesting part of his office. He wasn’t the autocratic leader of the office, he was the explorer with you. There were all these opportunities for people working there to play, to explore. That was the magic, and that’s why you’d have the sort of people who could go out and start their own practices, because they got that opportunity.

Nick Milkovich
Nick Milkovich Architects

I think Arthur was the first, and maybe only, international architect that Canada has produced; what it taught me as a young architect was to open my eyes to a bigger world beyond Vancouver. In the 1970s he was already doing work in Saudi Arabia, in Japan, in India. He always came back with slides, and when we designed, he talked about other cultures. He showed me images of India he used as inspiration for SFU, for example.

What I got from him is that we’re not limited to the spot where we stand on this earth. We should learn from and absorb other cultures and other experiences, expand our horizons beyond what we’re working on today.

The other thing I remember from Erickson: he would never accept anything as complete; he would not put his pencil down. He would come back from travelling and make us change it all. Human sacrifices, financial sacrifices, were not the top priority – to him the ultimate goal was the best work he could create.

When I look at the Olympic Village site, there’s an idea about trying new things and expanding beyond the norm of what is Vancouver. I think that is in the spirit of what Erickson would want. He wouldn’t want to see us repeat.

Jim Cheng
James K.M. Cheng Architects

Walter Francl, BSc, BArch, MArch, PEng, MAIBC, LEED-AP

Walter Francl Architecture Inc.

Interested in building since he was a child, Walter Francl studied structural engineering and then enrolled in architecture. He worked for James Cheng before pursuing a master’s degree at Harvard University. Back in Vancouver, he worked for the firm that would become Stantec, and then launched his own practice.

Francl has worked on a number of projects for the Vancouver Park Board, including the Kitsilano Community Centre, Ray-Cam Cooperative Centre and Trout Lake Arena. He collaborated with Nick Milkovich and Arthur Erickson on the community centre at the Olympic Village.

“It’s been a bit of a nail-biter,” Francl says of the project’s tight timeline. “It’s exhilarating and rewarding too. The glaziers and the metal cladding applicators really want to do this job right, they’re very committed. I think everybody rises to it for a job that’s of this caliber.”

Francl says the SEFC project is important in its effort to rethink the urban context. “This is going to be a new typology for North America in terms of building type, and Vancouver has led the way. I think everybody’s going to be quite amazed when they start walking around. It’s been an inspiration. I’m happy to have been involved.”

Dave Fookes

Morrison Hershfield

A materials engineer previously employed in construction, Dave Fookes developed an expertise in building envelope materials. This led him to work with Morrison Hershfield, a respected envelope engineering firm.

“I decided rather than be on the contract side, I’d go to the design side,” says Fookes. “Contracting is always about money – you might have a better idea but if it costs 10 cents more the other guy will get the contract. I wanted to help solve problems and come up with new solutions instead.”

As the envelope engineer of record for the entire Olympic Village, Fookes has had plenty of opportunities to do just that. Multiple contractors had to learn exterior insulated wall assembly while using a variety of claddings and incorporating elements that pierce the membrane, such as sun shades.

“It’s been rewarding to work on this project,” says Fookes. “The City wanted a high profile project with high levels of performance using newer ideas. So they’ve been open to trying things, and quick to make decisions.

“I think this project will demonstrate what can be done in terms of building performance and durability – it has helped raise the bar.”

Keith Panel Systems

Keith Panel Systems (KPS) is a North American leader in the design, manufacture, and installation of rainscreen wall systems. Doug Dalzell and Garry Wong established the company as part of the Keith Group in 1986. KPS now employs 160 people, with the head office and manufacturing facility located in North Vancouver.

“Our business is always challenging,” says Dalzell. “We are the last people on the façade, so we have to manage the accumulation of tolerances that occur during the construction process. In the end, our job is to make sure the project ends up looking as it was originally conceived. Sun, wind, and rain beat on the building envelope – these walls must perform on many levels, so they have to be done right.”

Architects utilized Alucobond and Swisspearl as their materials of choice for the Olympic Village. These products provide aesthetic value, low maintenance requirements, and high longevity ratings. In addition, the panel systems provided by KPS incorporate pressure equalized rainscreen technology. “Overall, very innovative and properly handled design has been implemented in all aspects of the Olympic Village,” he says. “I think at the end of the day everybody is going to be proud of what they’ve done.”