As much as I enjoy staying in with some takeout and Netflix, going out for a walk around the city is crucial for my mental health and well-being. So, after two years of being mostly stuck indoors due to the pandemic, I’m excited to head outdoors more often this summer!
I have to be honest—I’m not the most outdoorsy person. I go camping and hiking from time to time, but I always start to miss my WiFi and my favourite coffee shop after a few hours. The great news is that exploring outdoors doesn’t have to mean going camping and hiking—you can also wander through the city. You’ll be surprised by how many hidden gems you’ll find.
I love finding cool and inspiring structures in Vancouver; it’s like a streetscape scavenger hunt, especially for architectural enthusiasts. It’s also a budget-friendly experience that only requires a sunny day, some comfortable shoes, a TransLink day (or monthly) pass, and—of course—your water bottle.
If you’re like me and also enjoy exploring the city, read on to see some of my favourite buildings!
Project: Vancouver House; 52-story; mixed-use
Architecture: BIG Bjarke Ingels
Architectural styles: High-tech architecture, Neo-futurism
Completed in 2020
Location: 1480 Howe St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 1R8
Designed by Bjarke Ingels Group and completed in 2020, the Vancouver House is a residential tower incorporating neo-futurism and high-tech architectural styles. Located at 1480 Howe St, you’ll spot it along the route through the Granville Bridge.
The complex includes three glassy prism podiums inserted between the bridge. At first, it might look like it’s twisting, but this is due to the Vancouver House expanding from a triangular floor plan to a rectangle, giving the illusion that the building is winding. Fun fact: for the architect Bjarke Ingels, “it looks almost like a genie coming out of a bottle.”
Don’t forget to look at the public art installation centrepiece of the development—a $4.8 million spinning chandelier by Vancouver artist Rodney Graham, suspended beneath the Granville Bridge.
Project: The Waterfall Building, mixed-use
Architecture: Arthur Erickson and Nick Milkovich Architects
Completed in 2001
Location: 1540 W 2nd Ave, Vancouver, BC V6J 1H2
After spotting the Vancouver House, you can continue through the Granville Bridge to the iconic Waterfall Building, one of my favourite structures in the city. Located on 1540 W 2nd Ave, this project was designed by Arthur Erickson with Nick Milkovich Architects in 1966 but was finally completed in 2001.
The building consists of five separate structures organized around a public courtyard for the community within the complex. It also includes a roof garden on all five building structures designed by Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, a landscape architect. From the pedestrian walkway, you can admire the curtain of water that descends into a reflecting pool, where the Waterfall Building earns its name.
The Waterfall Building is also within walking distance to Granville Island in case you’d like to have a stroll or grab a bite at the market.
Project: Deloitte Summit
Architecture: OSO & Merrick Architecture
Architectural styles: Postmodernism
Completed in 2021
Location: 410 W Georgia St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1Z3
The new Deloitte Summit headquarters, also known as the “living sculpture,” is another exciting structure to visit. It’s a 24-storey office building made
up of steel-framed stacked cubes inspired by the shape of a Japanese lantern and is located just across the street from Library Square in Downtown Vancouver. The tower, designed by Tokyo-based OSO and Vancouver-based Merrick Architecture and completed in 2021, features glass floors with city skyline and mountain views, rooftop terraces, and vertical gardens.
You can also get breathtaking pictures of the city from the Vancouver Public Library’s new Phillips, Hager and North rooftop Garden on level nine. The garden is planted with a mix of arbutus hedge, honeysuckle, white roses, lavender, and coral bark maple trees.
Project: The Polygon Gallery
Architecture: Patkau Architects
Completed in 2017
Location: 101 Carrie Cates Ct, North Vancouver, BC V7M 3J4, Canada
A little farther out, located beside Lonsdale Quay and overlooking the Burrard Inlet, is my last recommendation to visit: The Polygon Gallery.
Designed by Patkau Architects and completed in 2017, The Polygon Gallery has a unique sawtooth roofline shape in reference to the nearby shipyards on the North Vancouver shoreline. Fun fact: the specific cladding detail (made of layers of perforated stainless steel) used on the building was new and didn’t have a name for it. As one of the architects have said, “It was the first time this cladding has ever been used.”
Admission to the gallery is by donation if you wish to visit their exhibitions. All galleries are located on the second level of the building—a floor that almost appears to be floating as it sits above an open floor glazed lobby and a gallery shop. After visiting the gallery, you can grab a bite at any of the restaurants, cafés, and shops at The Shipyards. Or you can relax and enjoy the view of the waterfront, visit the market, or head to the splash park.
I hope learning about these buildings will motivate you to walk around the city (or even your neighbourhood) to find more interesting and inspiring struc- tures, new and old.
Words and photos by Catherine Sohit