The Vancouver Urban Design Panel has rejected a plan to build a geometric glass office tower near historic buildings in Gastown.
The 26-storey glass office tower is being developed by Cadillac Fairview. If endorsed by the panel, it would have gone to the Development Permit Board, but now the process could take much longer. Cadillac Fairview announced it would reevaluate parts of its design.
The panel includes local architects, engineers, one development industry representative, one urban planner and one artist. It cannot approve projects but serves as an advisory board to City Council on development proposals and rezoning applications. Applicants can redesign and resubmit to the panel.
Because the project's size does not require a rezoning application, public consultations will not be held.
Some criticized the radical, sharply angled design of the structure which would contrast the century old Waterfront Station.
"It looks to me like a Jurassic Park rodent has chewed away at the ground," is how Anthony Norfolk — a member of the Vancouver Heritage Commission — described it in radio interviews.
"It's just the wrong building in the wrong place. Too much. Too close. Someone could come up with something better."
Waterfront Tower is designed by Chicago architects Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture.
According to documents filed with the city by the developer, the tower form was sculpted to maintain a distance from the station building to allow for the future Cordova Street connector, while maintaining lease depths within the building in response to the needs to prospective tenants desiring commercial office space.
This connector was envisioned in the Central Waterfront Hub Framework.
The tower was also developed to respond to solar conditions, adjusting the mass to shield the building from harsh conditions while admitting generous amounts of daylight and allow for the generation of renewable energy.
"The result is an iconic statement with prismatic geometries that echo the adjacent station building as well as the mountains beyond," states the developer in the documents.
While some have argued that the modern design clashes with its historical Gastown surroundings, Vancouver general manager of planning and development Brian Jackson asked skeptics to keep an open mind.
"There is always a controversy whether the new build should mimic the heritage buildings or should be a radical departure," he said.
Some of the city's most iconic buildings, like the downtown library and convention centre expansion, were initially panned when proposed, noted Jackson.
"And yet you look at those now and they form the fabric of our city," he said.
Jackson also argued that blending contemporary and classic is hardly anything new. He said examples such as The Guggenheim and The Louvre show that it can be done.
"Modern intervention in a heritage context is definitely not setting a precedent," he said.