Territorializing the Residual

STUDENT Joey Giaimo, University of British Columbia

LOCATION Vancouver, British Columbia

The densification of Vancouver has led to peculiar tensions between engineered and private land. Although adjacent to each other, these elements are self-absorbed and perform discretely within their context. These proximities have given rise to a rich urban anomaly–the residue of the built city, and stand as unexploited resources in the city’s drive for densification.

One of these residual spaces is the springboard for this project. Located downtown on the edge of the escarpment, public and inhabited spaces are proposed in an area that is largely underutilized and misunderstood. Adjacent to the site is an eclectic mix of programs including low-rise office buildings, a 60,000-seat stadium, a future residential complex containing big-box retail, a vehicular viaduct, and a “steam building” which doubles as infrastructure, providing heat to over 100 buildings in the downtown core via underground pipes.

Initial site analyses explored the peculiarities of a double site, which currently disconnects and disrupts potential activity between the upper level at Beatty Street, organized by the city grid, and the lower level at Expo Boulevard, dominated by the footprint of BC Place Stadium. The project site is a residual triangular slice of land born from the gradual accumulation of forms, the vertical shift of the escarpment, and the prominent shape of BC Place Stadium. It remains a distinct entity with a legal address, 701 Expo Boulevard, and currently functions as vehicular access to exterior storage and overflow parking for stadium events.

The architectural insertion is approached inversely. The site is left as a void and proposed as a public space, connecting to the upper level through a long ramp which ascends to an existing plaza mediating BC Place Stadium and Beatty Street. This linear public space becomes a subtle zone of energy that exposes, renews and activates relationships as it sustains the roles of its adjacent constituents without treating them as precious.

The ramped intervention empowers the void and operates sensitively, but with an opportunistic and insightful arrogance. It catalyzes this residual lot and provides access to two proposed strands of inhabited space, which parasitically tuck themselves below the viaduct and the stadium walkway. The generic form of these strands allows for a diverse range of programs such as offices, retail, fitness and/or a community centre.

Existing functions on the site remain active. This occurs in two ways: the manner of the ramp’s form allows access to exterior storage, and recessed lights embedded into the surface double as parking stall markers, transforming the public space into an overflow lot during stadium events.

Through mediation and connection, architecture can charge anomalous spaces, reconsider transitions in the city, and uphold the continuity of a vital urban culture.

Berke: This project undertook the difficult task of populating underutilized urban spaces; in this case, the spaces in and around a vehicular ramp in Vancouver. A complex urban form was created that really engages issues of both inhabitation and movement. Particularly elegant were the many building sections, and the three-dimensional understanding of the spaces documented that was expressed.

Sweetapple: A good example of an urban insertion that takes on the question of what to do with residential void space as major infrastructure cuts though our cities. The project tries to redefine these areas by inserting strands/ramps making vital connections between existing and new–to create new urban space quite convincingly.

Teeple: This project successfully exploits the random condition that results from the overlay of self-interested objects compressed into the accidental urbanism of Vancouver. The ramp is a connector, a sculptural surface and a platform for the voyeuristic experience of the city.