The design of the new Vancouver Convention Centre presented an opportunity to fully engage the urban ecosystem at the intersection of a vibrant downtown core and one of the most spectacular natural ecosystems in North America. Certified LEED® Canada Platinum, the project weaves together architecture, interior architecture, and urban design in a unified whole that functions literally as a living part of both the city and the harbor.
As a convention center, the building’s vast program encompasses at once a single building and a new urban district. Occupying a former brownfield site on the downtown waterfront, the CAN $883 million development is approximately 14 acres on land and 8 acres over water, with 1 million square feet of convention space, 90,000 square feet of retail space, 450 parking stalls, and 400,000 square feet of walkways, bikeways, public open space, and plazas. An elevated 6-lane viaduct for vehicles and pedestrians connects the site back to the city grid, while infrastructure for further development extends into the water, creating a base for future commercial and recreational marinas, a float plane terminal, and water-based retail opportunities.
The most visible evidence of the project’s deep approach to ecology is its living roof—at 6 acres it is the largest in Canada, hosting some 400,000 indigenous plants and 4 bee colonies of 60,000 bees each, for a total of 240,000 bees. The roof’s sloping forms build on the topography of the region, creating a formal connection to nearby Stanley Park and the mountains of Vancouver Island in view across the Burrard Inlet. Biologically, the living matter of the roof forms the terminus of a chain of waterfront parks that rings the harbor and creates continuous habitat between the Convention Center and Stanley Park. Along the perimeter facing the water, an artificial concrete reef drops below the public way along the waterfront. The reef is designed in collaboration with marine biologists and consultants to function ecologically as part of the natural shoreline, supporting salmon, crabs, starfish, seaweed, and a variety of other resident marine species. Runnels built into the tide flats beneath the building create tidal zone habitats that flush daily.
The internal metabolism of the building draws many of its inputs from the site’s resident renewable resources. A seawater heat pump system, for example, takes advantage of the constant temperature of seawater to produce cooling for the building during warmer months and heating in cooler months. Backup heat is provided by steam. The facility also includes a water conservation and reuse strategy that uses grey water to reduce potable use by 60 to 70 percent over typical convention centers. The strategy includes a black water treatment plant and a desalinization plant on site. Addressing the human environment, the architectural approach creates a community experience that is simultaneously a building, an urban place, a park, and an ecosystem. The convention center program emphasizes spaces for both public and private events, gatherings, and circulation. Urban spaces formed by the building’s landforms extend the downtown street grid to preserve view corridors out to the water. Waterfront and urban pedestrian activities extend the public realm through and around the site. The entire perimeter enclosure is an ultra-clear glass system, which provides strong linkages between interior and exterior public spaces, and visually reinforces the integration of urban and waterfront context into the user experience of the building.
Vancouver, British Columbia is a sophisticated, multicultural metropolis renowned for its spectacular natural setting of mountains, water, and park spaces and lively urban core. The nexus of these diverse elements—the natural ecology of the waterfront, vibrant city culture, and urban built environment—is embodied in the design for the new Vancouver Convention Centre West.