June 24, 2008
by Canadian Architect
The much anticipated Vancouverism project was revealed to architects from around the world at the official unveiling of the Vancouverism: Westcoast Architecture + City-Building exhibit at the prestigious London Festival of Architecture. Heralded as one of the highlights of the Embassy’s Program of the London Festival of Architecture (June 20 to July 20), the exhibit is curated by architects and critics, Trevor Boddy and Dennis Sharp. The show features the works of Vancouver’s most renowned architects, Arthur Erickson and Bing Thom, along with projects by James K.M Cheng and innovative engineers Fast + Epp, who are recognized as global leaders in applications of sustainably harvested engineered wood from British Columbia.
Vancouverism will be on display from June 23rd to September 4th in London, UK at Canada House, Trafalgar Square. The exhibition will be open Monday to Friday from 9:00am to 5:00pm, and from 10:00pm to 6:00pm on Saturdays.
Vancouverism began over half a century ago in a single visionary sketch Arthur Erickson’s then entirely hypothetical Project 56 a massive range of housing sweeping up from English Bay on the visual scale of the snow-capped mountains behind. A decade later came Erickson’s 1965 MacMillan Bloedel Office Tower perhaps the best example of a Brutalist-style office tower. By the mid-1970s, the same Vancouver-born architect’s Robson Square won international praise as a downtown set piece, combining lush gardens, government offices, space-framed law courts, and an Edwardian courthouse turned-art-gallery a diverse range of uses filling three entire city blocks.
Two of Erickson’s staff architects on the Robson Square design have since gone on to shape Vancouver and its suburbs with their own firms, and their work is featured in the London exhibition. Hong Kong-born Bing Thom is reinvigorating Vancouver’s multi-ethnic suburbs with bold new public spaces, innovative architecture, and unexpected combinations of ever more intensive uses of land in Surrey Central City and Richmond’s Aberdeen Centre.
One of the most anticipated features of the exhibition, conceived by Mr. Thom, will be a stunning demonstration of Canadian technical, design and entrepreneurial innovation as the corner of Canada House facing Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery of Great Britain will be temporarily wrapped with an undulating 200-foot-long and 27-foot-high wooden wall.
Named the “Trafalgar Square Demonstration Construction,” the stunning display will be constructed by frequent collaborators with architects Erickson and Thom, Fast + Epp and StructureCraft, the innovative engineering firm also responsible for the one-of-a-kind wood roof structure for the Richmond Speed Skating Oval in British Columbia. Their firm is increasingly recognized as a global leader in structural uses of sustainably harvested BC engineered wood. While Beijing 2008 and London 2012 have opted for steel and concrete for their Olympic structures, Fast + Epp span six hectares with a roof for the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Speed Skating Oval, made almost entirely of wood. This major piece of Olympic design will have its public and media debut at the Vancouverism exhibition.
On exhibit from architect James K.M. Cheng will be the newly opened Spectrum complex. Designed for Concord Pacific Developments, it is comprised of four 40-storey condo towers built literally on top of a “big-box” Costco store, the kind of hybrid of building types and functions currently only found in Vancouver, but of great international interest as cities conserve energy by pushing density to the limit. Spectrum is a superior architectural resolution of Vancouver’s characteristic downtown housing configuration: the thin-condo-tower-on-continuous-townhouse-base urban typology.
Vancouverism: Westcoast Architecture + City-Building highlights how one of North America’s most unusual and creative young cities is being transformed with new designs, and in turn, how Vancouver’s city-building ideas are now shaping urban development, from Dallas to Dubai. The exhibition features architectural drawings, detailed models, stunning photographs, world-debut video installations and demonstration constructions of a serpentine structure made from sustainably harvested British Columbia timber.
Green, global, and generous of spirit, Vancouverism shines a light of hope for diverse urban life dwelling in balance with nature. The exhibition will tour to other European cities later in the year. Vancouverism: Westcoast Architecture + City-Building is produced by Trevor Boddy, presented by the Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery at the University of British Columbia, and hosted by the Canadian High Commission, London as part of the 2008 London Festival of Architecture.
This exhibition has been generously supported by: the British Columbia Forestry Innovation Investment, the Canada Wood Export Programme through Natural Resources Canada, StructureCraft Builders Inc., Bing Thom Architects Inc., Fast and Epp Structural Engineers, James KM Cheng Architects, the Canada Council for the Arts, Architecture Program, Aeroplan, the Western Red Cedar Export Association and in-kind support from the Canadian High Commission, London.
For further information about the London Festival of Architecture visit: www.lfa2008.org.