North Vancouver City Hall

PROJECT North Vancouver City Hall, North Vancouver, British Columbia
ARCHITECT McFarlane Green Biggar Architecture + Design | Lead Architect Michael Green
PHOTOS Martin Tessler and Ema Peter

The City of North Vancouver has grown considerably since its original City Hall was built 40 years ago. To accommodate growth, a neighbouring public library was relocated, opening up space for City Hall to expand and meet the needs of staff and the public. The project was estimated to require over $20 million to meet current needs. Council agreed to move forward with the project with a budget of only $10.5 million, resulting in the submitted design. With a restricted budget, the design focuses on a central connective atrium for public service counters and a conversion of the existing library into staff offices and meeting space. A more selective renovation of the existing City Hall was undertaken to fashion a single final building. 

An impressive 220-foot-long atrium bridges the two existing concrete buildings with an innovative wood structure. To position the atrium, a large elm tree was cut down and the wood was reused in the main feature stair wall. An innovative panelized mass-timber system was devel-oped using large-format LSL (laminated strand lumber)–a material that uses very young trees to create very strong panels. The team developed the solution to span the atrium with prefabricated 12’ x 32’ panels. A cross-lamination of the LSL panels left a cavity for acoustic treatment, sprinklers and lighting. The atrium ceiling itself is the structure. 

LSL bands were then used throughout the existing library building as an acoustic ceiling treatment. The atrium reconciles a single-floor grade change from front to back of the site and connects the main entrance street to the pedestrian mall street behind City Hall. The public room floats out over the main entrance as a symbol of government transparency and a marker of entry along the existing undistinguished streetscape. The landscape was carefully integrated with the architecture, providing community gardens, public gathering spaces, water features and staff retreats.

Stripped to its concrete structure, the library building was seismically upgraded. The design cut openings through the second floor and roof to daylight the partially buried ground floor. The openings also provide natural ventilation with integrated operable skylights. The architects developed the interior design and workplace with custom millwork throughout. Laminated veneer lumber (LVL) panels were epoxied and stained red for the public engineering, planning and finance counters.

The building systems are tied to a solar array and district energy plant, located on the roof of the new library and under the public plaza respectively. Significant energy upgrades were undertaken and LEED certification is underway. The decision to preserve the existing structures and buildings was fundamental to the designers, and their goal was to illustrate revitalization through design and especially through detail.

The new building celebrates the community of North Vancouver through art, design and the creation of shared informal community space inside and out. The atrium provides a new and improved space for large public gatherings, allowing the city to welcome the community in for events large and small. Public art pieces were selected for the main atrium early in the design process, resulting in an integrated art program designed to complement the architecture. 

Jury An elegant, restrained and sophisticated expansion to a small district municipal hall. A simple and engaging tube-like structure is inserted between two existing buildings to act as a common entry point. The vocabulary is warm and refined, befitting a City Hall’s place in the community. CA 

Client City of North Vancouver | Architect Team Michael Green, Tracey Mactavish, Asher deGroot, Jordan van Dijk, Lydia Robinson, Stephanie da Silva, Jing Xu, Susan Scott, Meaghan Mcbride | Structural Equilibrium Consulting | Mechanical AME Consulting Group | Electrical BLC Engineering | Civil Hub Engineering | Landscape Space 2 Place Design Inc. | Sustainability Recollective | Code GHL Consultants | Transportation Bunt & Associates | Contractor Stuart Olson Dominion Construction Ltd. | Area 11,000 ft2 new construction; 27,000 ft2 renovation | Budget $10.5 M | Completion June 2012