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Last week, some of the Hapa team had the opportunity to enjoy an exclusive Vancouver Rooftop Garden tour by bicycle, spanning from False Creek and Coal Harbour to the Downtown Eastside. Our tour stops comprised of: The Central; Vancouver Convention Centre West Roof Habitat, Lore Krill Housing Co-op, and 626 Alexander.

Our first stop was only a 5 minute ride away to meet with Jennifer, a resident of The Central (Connect Landscape Architecture, 2014). The Central is a 19-storey mixed use designed by Bruce Haden (of DIALOG, formerly HBBH) with a Skybridge joining commercial and residential components.
Although it is a new addition to the neighbourhood, it has quickly become a distinguished neighbour of the Telus World of Science, which shares the same street. The Central boasts a wellness centre spanning 7,000 square feet, which includes a fitness centre, yoga studio, theatre and the rooftop terrace. The terrace is home to a small playground and currently 32 garden beds. Residents can rent out an adjacent kitchen/event room that looks out onto the burgeoning, surrounding works-in-progress of False Creek.

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Merely a 13 minute pedal from The Central is the Waterfront icon, Vancouver Convention Centre West (PWL Partnership Landscape Architects, 2009). Home of the largest living roof in Canada, the award-winning centre is certified LEED Platinum, which translates to annually recycling 180,000 kg of materials in beautiful form, among many other things.

The building Engineer, Paul, was happy to share with us that among the 400,000 indigenous plants & grasses living on the six-acre roof habitat, there are also over 60,000 bees that help provide honey for the centre’s “scratch” kitchen. The kitchen itself promotes the use of fresh, local and seasonal ingredients. Therefore no chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides are used on the roof and 30% less energy is required to cool the building in the summertime.

If one is lucky to find themselves on this roof habitat, it is easy to lose track of where it begins and ends, or to imagine you are Julie Andrews frolicking north of the Alps.

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When asked what maintenance work looks like, Paul mentioned it takes a crew of 6 landscapers over the period of one week to properly manicure the roof. Approximately 11,000 pounds of grass and plants are cut annually, some of which are used as compost back onto the roof.
However the one exception may have been in November 2015, when the centre, in partnership with WeedBusters, raised money for Movember Foundation, and sculpted a 182 feet wide by 45 feet tall moustache on the roof.

After a glance of the underwater marine habitat and the Seawheeze Half Marathon festivities along the seawall, we mobilized towards the Northeast for our last official stop, the Lore Krill Housing Co-op (Henriquez Partners Architects, 2002), led by resident, Andrew. As with any co-operative housing model, Lore Krill requires prospective members to undergo an extensive application process, if any of the 106 units happen to be available. With studio to 5-bedroom options, the fruits of members’ labour became evident to us, upon being greeted by the water feature in the shared courtyard, and visiting 1 of 5 of the lush, landscaped rooftop terraces. We had a prime view of the iconic Woodwards ‘W’ and were certain that the garden plots contained enough ingredients for a few days’ worth of lunch salads.

A unique aspect of Lore Krill is not only its stunning interlocking structures connected with bridges, but the fact that more than 50% of the building is universally accessible (most buildings are only 10% accessible). The Co-op’s brick facade is a quintessential Gastown choice, complimenting HPA’s other project, the Woodward’s Redevelopment. The Co-op was named after a late active DTES resident who founded the Main and Hastings Housing Society, Four Corners Community Savings Bank, and Bruce Eriksen Place.

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Our bonus stop was Inform Vancouver on 50 Water Street, by Niels Bendtsen and Omer Arbel. We were glad to discover more happy bees, photographic opportunities, and views of Blood Alley and Gastown.

Our Rooftop Garden Tour concluded at the newest project on the roster, 626 Alexander designed by Gair Williamson with landscaping by Hapa Collaborative. 626 consists of a shared courtyard complete with a harvest table and communal barbeque area. A variety of climbing vines help screen the courtyard from the adjacent building. Custom aluminum planters divide the rooftop patios while the tall screening plantings offering shade.

The tour was a refreshing reminder for landscape designers to not only provide a great view from a gym or studio, but to highly consider incorporating shade and accessibility for rooftop terraces or shared outdoor spaces. Indoor amenities were less of a focus and urban agriculture was popular among all of our stops.

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Many thanks to fellow Hapsters Shelley, Vivianne and our Social Committee for organising our tour. A special thanks to our guides (Jennifer, Paul and Andrew) for their time in sharing these beautiful green spaces with us. It is one thing to know of the biodiversity in Vancouver but another to understand and experience it. While these stops were only a few examples in the city, it is certainly valuable to have residential and commercial spaces rooted in community history, cultivating a future for urban agriculture in the city. Visit our Instagram feed for more images and updates: @hapacobo.

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Lore Krill Housing Co-op  Hapa Life 2
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626 Alexander  626