1575 West Sixth Avenue, Vancouver
By Stephen Hynes
This is a design collaboration between Arthur Erickson and myself that has taken several years to find its final form. It embodies our most recent thinking on inclusive architecture in terms of open circulation, shape and overlook, unit use and layout, public invitation, and provocative common areas. These are my primary concerns, but their expression in this structure is integrated in such a way that it is predominantly an exercise in public art.
The structure is entirely wood. Douglas Fir post and beam timbers are assembled with iron saddles and braces. Floors and ceilings are also timber, styled after circa 1900 warehouse flooring, with structural 3"x6" fir members assembled with the narrow side up. The structure is wrapped in glass fitted into an iron a framework fastened directly to the timber.
The building will have completely different daytime and nighttime aspects. During the day, the building will look like a glass grid, but when interior lighting exceeds ambient levels the full timber structure will be completely visible. This effect will be enhanced with a special anti-reflective glass coating.
The core of the building is a stepped atrium, south facing and open to West 6th Avenue. Circulation is by exterior walkways in the atrium, with a glass elevator tower that rises 50 feet from street level and measures 14 feet square. The tower will be a modern stained glass installation with coloured glass panels fit into either a cast iron or, more likely, a welded aluminum framework, with very thick, shaped mullions replacing the lead came of traditional stained glass work. The car will have glass windows, as well as glass portals on the floor and ceiling. The tower will be illuminated from inside.
The glass artist has yet to be chosen, but I am talking both with a local artist, Joe Average, and the celebrated glass artist Dale Chihuly about the project. The final piece may involve the work of both. I feel I must mention that the tower is the one thing on which Arthur Erickson and I do not completely agree. He prefers a clear glass tower with a stained glass car, while I prefer the reverse. Client prerogative allows me to choose.
Another glass feature is the building surround. The ground floor is stepped back from the property lines. All ground floor units have an underground level that extends to the property line. The underground portion that extends beyond the main structure is covered with a skylight that joins the glass envelope of the building. The glass forms a trough which will be filled with water and covered with a steel grating. At night, coloured light will be refracted into the water, visually floating the building, and providing an unusual light to the underground spaces.
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