Emerging Talent: Ply Architecture

Casey Burgess. Photo by Jeremy Jude Lee
Arnold Chan. Photo by Jeremy Jude Lee

After three years designing for offices in Hong Kong, in 2013 itinerant travellers Arnold Chan, MRAIC and Casey Burgess took a huge leap of faith establishing Ply Architecture in Vancouver—a city where neither had any professional ties. As unknown newcomers, they started from scratch in their living room, building relationships and eventually landing work through word of mouth. Ply now occupies a sunny studio space in Vancouver’s Gastown neighbourhood. Architect Chan and interior designer Burgess liken the past four years to running a “design-business boot camp.”

The design for Juke Fried Chicken is a mix of modern elements and eclectic moments, yielding a space as soulful as the food it serves. Photo by Andrew Latreille

Ply has quickly carved out a niche designing fitness studios, pop-up shops, and local foodie-fast-food joints like Joe Pizza, Juke Fried Chicken, Peaked Pies, and Pacific Poké. The duo describes their clients as kindred spirits who are, like Ply, young entrepreneurs and small business owners.

An origami-like canopy evokes an ocean wave at Pacific Poké, which serves seafood-topped rice and salad bowls. Photo by Andrew Latreille

Ply’s outsider perspective has resulted in shop fronts that sparkle with unusual materials and forms, from the green and gold diamond plate on the walls of Juke Fried Chicken to the steel origami canopy at Pacific Poké.

At Tight Club, floor markings and lighting are used to animate the open-plan workout area. Photo by Andrew Latreille

For Tight Club, a local fitness studio, Ply used simple folded white slats to define an entry zone with a mirrored workout space beyond. For Peaked Pies, Ply suspended tall stacks of brightly spattered pie plates, creating a playful ceiling over a long communal table. Alongside single family homes and condo renovations, retail and restaurant work continues to fill the boards.

The Ply partners describe their studio and their work as

The new home for a local gym, Tight Club, includes a front check-in area that evokes the club’s former home in a coach house. Photo by Andrew Latreille

a fluid process with no predetermined outcome. Or as Chan puts it, “you never arrive; you just ply your craft everyday.”