Skip to Content

Bing Thom & The Future of Our City

As winter is officially upon us and one more week of 2016 remains, it is certainly the perfect time for us to reflect on lessons learned, remember those who are not with us, and look forward to the future. Many tout 2016 was a tough year for loss of notable folks, and that will continue to ring true with a larger, aging population among us.

At this time, we would like to acknowledge & remember Mr. Bing Thom, who was an innovative, visionary leader in the architecture & design community both locally and globally. It was a pleasure to attend Bing Thom and The Future of Our City, a tribute and dialogue event in honour of the late founder of the architectural and urban design practice based in Vancouver, Hong Kong, and Washington, DC. Westbank is a continuous collaborative partner with Bing Thom Architects (BTA), and they hosted the evening earlier this month at the Rio Theatre, stemming from their salon series, Gwerk.

Read More
Dedicated “to city building and the creation of beautiful buildings”, Westbank references Gwerk as a short form of Gesamtkunstwerk to describe their philosophy behind their body of work. Pronounced “get-zahmt-KOONST-VAIRK”, the German phrase was popularized by Richard Wagner in the mid-19th century and translates to “life as a total work of art”. Rather than a traditional sale office / presentation centre, the Beach & Howe development with Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Vancouver House, also programmed the space as a contemporary building exhibition in 2014.

Westbank’s President and CEO, Ian Gillespie, opened up our evening at the Rio Theatre with a personal reflection of his relationship with Bing. From sailing trips to the drawing board, he noted Mr. Thom was always one to challenge misconceptions, challenge the status quo, and did not present the same old, same old. In the same vein, Helen, who is BTA’s Director of Marketing & Communications, shared her insight of their everyday office culture, working alongside Bing, her observations of his genuine connection and those that were affected by his daily kindness.

Bing Thom & the Future of our City - Panel

The night was intentionally organised in the heart of Grandview-Woodland, as Bing, Westbank, Crombie REIT and their respective teams continue to engage in the revitalization of the site at Broadway and Commercial. “We have the chance to develop a design vision that can bring the community together to create a legacy project for the city’s most diverse and creative neighbourhood. Can we rise to the challenge?,” Bing provocatively anticipated back in September. There is no doubt that Bing has left us with a great legacy in Vancouver, Canada and beyond. BTA Principal Michael Heeney closed the speaker installment of the evening with a chronicle of the firm’s past successes, from the start of his career at BTA in the early 80s to the most recent Surrey City Central projects including SFU Surrey and the City Centre Library. Other highlights included nautral light control and illuminating of the Pacific Canada Pavilion, natural amphitheatres at Vancouver’s Sunset Community Centre, historic preservation and small library renovation(s) in Washington, DC, flood mitigation for Fort Worth’s Trinity Uptown Plan, and working with Canadian Landscape Architect, Cornelia Oberlander, on the Chan Centre.

A poignant story Michael shared about Bing’s professional approach and creative genius was the North West Territories Pavilion for Expo 86. Heeney indicated that the budget was approximately $2.8M, whereas their work for Expo 92’s Canadian Pavilion in Seville, Spain was a whopping $40M. Michael believes the project with the smaller budget had greater success, as it was multi-faceted, including Bing’s incorporation of film. “He had a holistic approach. [Which reminds us all] You can’t limit yourself to architecture,” Michael notes about Bing.

A common thread in BTA’s work shown is the lessons and cues from previous projects that are obviously and not-so obviously carried over to new ones. One particular client, the City of Surrey, was so pleased that they rebranded their new identity to boast “the future lives here” with a silhouette of buildings that have a striking resemblance to BTA’s completed project.

The City Centre library proves that the contemporary library is not exclusively a silent place anymore and that a variety of spaces can (and perhaps should) be intended for a variety of activities over time. The practice of landscape architecture and urban design focuses on this area a lot – the Third Place. Derived from Ray Oldenburg’s The Great Good Place, the third place is apart from the other two places: our home and our work places. Michael segues into the panel discussion portion of the evening reminding us that the third place will continue to have an important role in the community as more of us live in smaller spaces.

The lively panel discussion that followed acquainted us with moderator Leslie Van Duzer (SALA Professor), Charles Montgomery (Happy City author), Bruce Haden (Vancouver architect and Board Member at The Vancouver Urbanarium Society), Sonja Trauss (founder of San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation), and Michael who spoke earlier. The breadth of the discussion was the timely topic of housing affordability and designing for youth and children. “I want the most interesting people to live here,” Bruce proclaimed. “It is also a responsibility to my children to live in a place with the most interesting people.” While Ian sees Bing as a “disruptor”, Bruce’s additional thought was that Bing was an ultimate pragmatist: “he was profoundly able to understand [aspects of a project] from finances to urbanism, and that allowed him to do extraordinary things.”

In order to achieve the range of social experiences, sustainability, and longevity that is being advocated for, we certainly need leaders that think like Bing has. An approach that celebrates the past, present and future, like BTA’s team has in their work. The panel acknowledged the need for social coherence and durability in our buildings. “New residents come whether or not there are new residences to live in,” Sonja reminded us. The panel concluded that looking to other living typologies and options is a matter of proactivity and preparation to prevent crowding and circumstances that may be a threat to public health. The task is not simply city building of yesteryear, but to inspire activities, places for children, support housing and work.

Trick or Treat Count - BTA

A significant piece of the picture is the steadfast arm of urban research that BTA has, directed by Andy Yan. The firm partners with Vancouver Sun every year to do a “Trick-or-Treat count”, tallying up visitors every Halloween. The result is a rewarding visual map of Vancouver proper that highlights where it is most likely one can get a full chocolate bar. Though our North American tradition of stocking up on extra sugar may not be the healthiest, Heeney, Yan et al. may imply that neighbourhoods with more children are healthier ones.

We were left with thoughtful reminders and questions to ask: encourage more places for children and families in the city; encourage more gathering places apart from home and work which may also fold into a place we have a right to protest — a public space, per Leslie Van Duzer. Last but not least, Charles asks: Who is the city for?

How can we participate? We hope to continue to share these stories and dialogue in the community. Thanks to BTA x Westbank for inpsiring us and helping us remember Bing. We are obliged to announce we will be working with both teams on the Commercial Broadway site, and look forward to what 2017 brings for Vancouver! Merry Holidays and a Happy New Year, from the Hapa Team!

The 40th Anniversary Powell Street Festival: Hapa sponsors Design Competition

Although Vancouver is considerably young compared to its other Canadian counterparts, our oldest Community-based festival, Powell Street Festival, celebrated its 40th Anniversary on the weekend of July 30th, 2016. It also happens to be Canada’s Largest Japanese Canadian Festival, and Hapa Collaborative is proud to be a Community Partner each year. Powell Street Festival Society’s (PSFS) mission is to cultivate Japanese Canadian arts and culture to connect communities.

This year, Hapa sponsored Bing Thom Architects’ & Abaton Projects PSFS Design Competition, which invited architecture students to design an interactive installation that considers civic engagement, cultural relevance, and environmental sustainability at the festival’s site in the Downtown Eastside’s Japantown. Festival goers and passersby grazing the north side of Oppenheimer Park would likely have seen a carp-shaped structure perched on the lawn. Coined by winning design students as “The Koinobori”, the temporary, rubberwood, interactive installation resembles a windsock. It was dressed with cloth “scales” that served as visual or written stories by members of the community.

In Japanese culture, the carp symbolizes strength and courage because of its ability to swim upstream and against the current of a waterfall. In a way, we felt that it fit well with the festival because it is all about bringing the Japanese community together, celebrating their culture and keeping that tradition strong. – Melody Giang, Winning Student Team Member

The winning team was awarded a $1,000 prize, a production budget and mentorship from Bing Thom Architects (BTA) and Abaton Projects. Other partners included Hapa, Haeblar Group, Heatherbrae Builders, AME Group, and RDH Building Science. Congratulations to German exchange students Kai Kattge & Sebastian Saure, along with BCIT’s Architectural Technology 3 class (Melody Giang, Emily Huser, Steven Schmidt).

 

PSFS 2016 Koinobori

 

Jim Deva Plaza Speaker’s Corner – Opening Thursday July 28th

Tomorrow night, downtown Vancouver’s newest plaza opens to the public with live performances, entertainment, and a ribbon cutting with the Mayor.

Hapa designed and coordinated the fabrication of a commemorative speakers’ corner ‘soapbox’ feature for Jim Deva Plaza (plaza design by PFS Studio).
The public art/commemorative sculpture pays tribute to the plaza’s namesake Jim Deva, who was a beloved community member and champion of free speech rights and equality in the LGBTQ2+ Community in Vancouver. Inspired by the formal geometries of megaphones, grammaphones, and flowers alike, the piece is painted in pink and turquoise – the two colours from the original rainbow flag design that did not make it into mass production.

The plaza also celebrates Jim Deva’s role as advocate for parks and open space in Vancouver, making the street closure by the famous rainbow crosswalks a fitting dedication.

Join us tomorrow night at Jim Deva Plaza from 4-8:30pm for a lively night of celebration to kick off Vancouver Pride Week!

2016-06-10 detailed design Meeting SL.indd 2016-06-10 detailed design Meeting SL.indd 2016-06-10 detailed design Meeting SL.indd 2016-06-10 detailed design Meeting SL.indd 2016-06-10 detailed design Meeting SL.indd Jim Deva Megaphone 6 Jim Deva Megaphone 7 Jim Deva Megaphone 8 Jim Deva Megaphone 9 Jim Deva Megaphone 10 Jim Deva Megaphone 11 Jim Deva Megaphone 12 Jim Deva Megaphone 13 Jim Deva Megaphone 14 Jim Deva Megaphone 15 Jim Deva Megaphone 16 Jim Deva Megaphone 17 Jim Deva Megaphone 18

Congratulations!

Congratulations to our collaborators at Marianne Amodio Architecture Studio on receiving the AIBC Emerging Firm Award – you certainly deserve it! We are working on an exciting new project with MAA Studio and can’t wait to show you.

Several architecture firms we collaborate with in BC earned awards last week: see the full list here.

Edgy Metro Vancouver playgrounds attract kids from far and wide

Terra Nova is the place to be…for kids! Terra Nova steals the show again…check out the Vancovuer Sun Video!

Edgy Metro Vancouver playgrounds attract kids from far and wide

West Park Richmond

Nell and Joe have been overseeing the pouring of the slough wall at West Park in Richmond’s Tait neighbourhood, where No. 4 Road meets the north arm of the Fraser River.  The wall is a tracing of the original location of Slough, as mapped by Dr. Lionel Ham, see an excerpt of one of his maps below.  The wall is fabricated from three separate pours of coloured concrete to create a sedimentary  profile on the vertical face, and the wall alignment follows the outline of the slough’s direction, connecting the street to the river through the park.  The crew with Western Watershed have done a great job building tight radiused forms, placing very dry, low-slump concrete and finishing the edges crisply.  The result:  a few deeply honeycombed patches, but a nice crisp line between colours.  We expect the colour to fade over time.

Market Lane . . . Pumped Up!

Our colleague Art Lierman, landscape architect for the Market Lane project in London, was downtown for Nuit Blanche and happened upon Market Lane, fully amped up for the event, with the Fanshawe College roll-away frontage (left side of image) open onto the lane, we think for the first time ever.  The DJ was playing from the indoor/outdoor space, and had linked the light canopy to pulse with the beat of his tracks. Needless to say, lots of energy and a great vibe in the lane, exactly what we were hoping for from the beginning.  We’re hopeful that we see more programming and events at Market Lane – by Fanshawe or the City – in the future!  Thanks Art for sending the photos!

 

Birds Eye View of Terra Nova Adventure Play Environment

Ever wonder what it looks like from up top.  Wonder no more!  Pretty cool to see the the playground as a whole.

Missing: One of the ten little Rabbits. Reward if found!

Maurice Sendak, we found one of your ten little rabbits at Williams pump station.  To learn more about the project click here!

 

Williams Rd - 9

 

SFU Rise Competition – “PILE-UP”

 

RISE is an open ideas competition addressing sea level rise in Metro Vancouver. It’s a way for anyone in our diverse community to develop innovative ideas that will help us to adapt and thrive – faster than the waters that surround us.

Working with Colin Kristiansen from KWL and Nick Page from Raincoast Applied Ecology, the Hapa team put together and submitted the “Pile-up” and made it to the Top 10!

“Pile-Up: A simple, geomorphic response to sea level rise. Our approach relies on natural processes, proven skills and a familiar palette. We propose to lay down simple, local materials where the land meets the sea. The result will be calmer waters, better habitat for plants and animals, and an enriched coastal experience for all who live and visit there.”

Learn more about our submission here!  #riseideas

Pile up