Looking for Tenders


Bing Thom finds the freedom to explore new directions

0 203 Home

by Jean Sorensen

By definition, creativity is always on the edge, said leading architect Bing Thom, the keynote speaker at the 2011 Festival of Architecture in Vancouver.
Vancouver architect Bing Thom
Vancouver architect Bing Thom

By definition, creativity is always on the edge, said leading architect Bing Thom, the keynote speaker at the 2011 Festival of Architecture in Vancouver.

“You are always pushing the status quo,” he added.

Vancouver-based Thom is known for moving beyond the mainstream and creating dynamic buildings that connect to the community.

He will present the address at the festival co-hosted by the Architectural Institute of B.C. (AIBC) and Architecture Canada, formerly known as the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC). The national association’s 2010 Firm Award went to Bing Thom Architects, while Thom received the 2011 Architecture Canada Gold Medal, the highest honor given to a Canadian architect.

He sees the West Coast as a natural incubator for creativity.

“Vancouver is on the edge and is well known as a place to drop out,” said Thom.

Dropping out isn’t a bad thing.

Instead, it has given creative individuals a unique opportunity and perspective.

There’s not the mainstream pressure to conform, plus the opportunity to explore new concepts.

“Vancouver is a very young place and there is room to grow,” he said.

The 2011 conference theme, Architecture on the Edge, was chosen to express three concepts, said AIBC’s communication director David Wiebe.

“Architects are amongst the professions that drive forward change,” Wiebe said.

“There is also the artistic or edgy side where you go outside the norm. And finally, we are out here on the edge in the West Coast and our architecture takes a unique flavor.”

While Vancouver’s edginess has lead to more unique structures and a worldwide reputation for innovation, Thom said there is still work to be done.

Globalization of concepts is occurring and often these concepts are moved into a new area without thorough consideration.

“Because something works in Germany doesn’t mean it is going to work here,” he said, adding that green roofs are an example.

While they are beneficial in cases, he said, the cost of a green roof might provide a better and more sustainable structure if applied elsewhere.

“We have yet to develop a Vancouver principle for what is green,” he said.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) is another example.

Most of B.C. building energy comes from hydro and natural gas – not from coal such as in other places around the world.

“Our problem (with GHG) is contributed by the automobile – so maybe it might be better to focus on achieving greater density and public transit,” he said.

An architect can tumble into what he calls a green wash,

One such example of a green wash was a Chinese study that found a solar panel could power a lamp standard for 15 years.

However, the energy used to produce the panel was greater than what the lamp would burn over time.

“A lot of issues are human issues rather than green issues or technology issues,” he said, adding that the energy crisis is really a human crisis and that more people need to put on a sweater, walk, bus, car pool or ride a bike.

“We are becoming increasingly lazy and depending upon machines,” he said.

Common sense should also prevail.

“There are a lot of educated people, but not all have common sense,” he said.

That common sense looks for the best solution, not the standard practice.

Sunset Community Centre, for example, won awards for its tilt-up concrete construction process and its wave-like design. But, surrounding it are grassy rolling banks and hills.

Rather than trucking away excavation dirt, Thom’s firm grassed over the area.

The architects realized its “organic potential” for children to use the area to climb or sled in winter.

It also provides a vantage point for Main’s Street parades and community centre events.

Architect Matthew Woodruff, who worked with Thom for 10 years, said the term architect does not really describe Thom.

“I think that description is inadequate – he is a real leader, who is concerned with how architecture touches people’s lives. I think he is a great architect in terms of his overall building practices and that is his legacy.”

Woodruff, who has his own firm, is amazed how Thom seeks out and engages stakeholders in the building process.

He also takes a daily interest in the facility’s construction, engaging tradesmen and contractors.

“His buildings are finely wrought with a lot of attention to detail. They are of a much higher standard than you would find in the province and region,” Woodruff said.

Thom maintains there is one basic element in architecture that needs to be focused upon in design.

“We need to remember we design for people,” he said.

Leave a comment

Or register to be able to comment.

Copyright ConstructConnect TM. All rights reserved. "ConstructConnect" is a dba for CMD Holdings.
The following rules apply to the use of this site:
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement