Governor General’s Medal Winner: The Dock Building


The boating facility is made up of two lantern-like wedges, one facing the land and the other facing the water.

LOCATION Vancouver, British Columbia
ARCHITECT MGA | Michael Green Architecture
PHOTOS Ema Peter Photography

Located on Jericho Beach in Vancouver, the Dock Building serves a large marina of sailboats. The facility provides washrooms and showers, offices for the Harbour Master, instruction space for children, and a variety of workshops to maintain boats, sails and gear.

The project’s practical working needs, modest budget and prominent siting required a simple solution that honoured the cannery and industrial heritage of waterfront buildings that were found on the site a half-century earlier.

The massing is simple: two intersecting wedge volumes mirror each other to create a lantern to the sea and a lantern to the land. Facing land, a glulam-and-translucent-polycarbonate wall brings light into the workshop spaces and glows along the beach at night. Facing the sea and the marina, a series of garage doors opens to the shop bays, and glazed offices serve for the management of the docks.

A series of garage doors opens to areas for boat servicing.

A back-lit wood screen above the offices hides the mechanical systems in the high volume of the water-facing wedge. A knife-edge gutter provides an overhang for the shop doors, mimicking the razor-edge forms of the racing sailboats that line the dock.

The building resides on the water’s edge, just where high tide meets the beach. Almost half of the project budget went to the foundation and piles, leaving the design team with the challenge of meeting the project’s functional needs on a tight budget, while delivering a meaningful place to the community.

The two volumes are detailed to cleanly intersect at their rooflines.

To meet this challenge, the designers selected economical, yet robust, materials. White standing-seam panels are used for the exterior, harmonizing with the forms and colour of the boats and their sails. The structure is primarily composed of durable, long-lasting timber, including glulam posts and beams, and light timber infill decking and walls. The interior is predominantly construction-grade fir plywood, providing a tough, easily replaceable interior finish. The extensive use of wood makes the most of the budget, but more importantly, demonstrates the benefits of using this flexible, carbon-capturing, sustainable material. Throughout, the project has modest, practical details.

The design team aimed to demonstrate that all projects—from boutique museums to working industrial buildings—can, and should, be realized with grace and architectural dignity. While museums are few and far between, practical buildings like recreational support facilities are a common part of our communities. The designers believe in the importance of celebrating the common: delivering architecture on a shoestring is always possible.

The interior is largely finished in construction-grade fir plywood that is durable but can also be easily replaced.

:: Jury Comments ::  This practical facility sits very lightly among the docks, at rest on the Vancouver shoreline like a boat on the water. From its simple form and efficient organization arise an architectural experience that is both poetic and sensible. While modest, it exhibits careful thinking about composition and materials on almost every level. To coin a phrase, sometimes less is more than enough.

PROJECT TEAM Michael Green (FRAIC), Candice Nichol, Mingyuk Chen, Evelyne Saint Jacques, Justin Bennett, Winston Chong | CLIENT Royal Vancouver Yacht Club   | STRUCTURAL Equilibrium Consulting | MECHANICAL/ AME Consulting Group Ltd. | electrICAL Jarvis Engineering Consultants Ltd. | CIVIL/MARINE STRUCTURAL Worley Parsons | CONTRACTOR Heatherbrae Builders | envelope RDH Building Science Inc. | OCCUPANCY September 1, 2017   | BUDGET $3.5M