Public engagement session for tower proposal at 555 West Cordova (Thurs, Dec 3)

origami 555 West CordovaThe origami concept tower proposed beside Waterfront Station generated much controversy earlier this year, and the project was later put on hold. Detractors dubbed it the “icepick” building and the “blob.” Former Director of Planning, Ray Spaxman penned an open letter in July 2015 that was signed by a number prominent urban design specialists.

While the project is still on hold, the proponent is organizing a “public engagement session” at the following time:

Thursday, December 3, 2015, 4:30 – 7:30pm, 900 Canada Place Way (Fairmont Waterfront Hotel, Mackenzie Ballroom).

An excellent article on this proposal is available on the website: Retired planners push back against proposed tower at 555 West Cordova Street in Vancouver (November 25, 2015, Daniel Wood). The city’s website has a page for 555 West Cordova Street (DE418532). According to the City, no new drawings have been submitted by the applicant:


icepick origamiThe developer behind the project is Cadillac Fairview. The Chicago-based designers, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architects are partnering with the conglomerate B+H Architects that have a local office in Vancouver. Partnering with a “local firm” is a requirement by the AIBC. It should be noted that B+H Architects have 10 offices worldwide.

Here’s some food for thought. Does the fact that the primary architects on the project are from Chicago make a difference? Are Vancouver-based experts in the field more willing to criticize out of town architects than locals? While much of the criticism against the project may indeed be warranted, an open question is whether there would have been as large of a local backlash if the project had been completely designed by a Vancouver-based firm? Readers may recall that the original Paragon Casino project was designed by the Rockwell Group in New York City. This project also received significant pushback from industry insiders. Is there a double standard when out of town architects can be criticized, while local firms are mostly immune from criticism by fellow urban design professionals?

jane_pickeringThe handling of 555 West Cordoba will be a test for current Acting Planning Chief Jane Pickering. Ms. Pickering will fill the position of General Manger, Planning and Development Services until a permanent replacement for recently retired Brian Jackson is found.

The project was originally set for approval by the Development Permit Board on March 9, 2015, however, this meeting was cancelled on February 10, 2015. The announcement of the December 3rd public consultation engagement session is the first piece of news about the proponent’s desire to move the project forward.

The siting of the tower between two heritage buildings was of much concern. As well, there is the issue of view impacts (for further details, please see our previous post View impacts of glass tower proposed beside Waterfront Station (555 Cordova Street)). Will the architect merely make a few cosmetic changes to the project design and resubmit the proposal, or will a wholesome and open consultation process result in a different outcome?

555 West Cordova site
Site located between protected heritage buildings at Waterfront Station (CPR Station at 601 West Cordova) and at 375 Water Street (Kelly-Douglas Warehouse / Holland Block)
Waterfront Station555 Cordova site

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