British Columbia

Gastown tower rejected by Vancouver's urban design panel

Vancouver's Urban Design panel has said no to plans for a controversial high-rise tower.

The so-called origami tower was criticized for not fitting in with the neighbourhood's heritage architecture

Vancouver's Urban Design panel rejected plans for a controversial new high-rise tower next to Waterfront Station.

Developers proposed to build the 26-storey glass and steel tower at 555 Cordova Street, putting it right between two heritage buildings at the entrance of the historical Gastown neighbourhood.

On Wednesday night the city's design panel rejected the proposal, citing design flaws in the lower portion of the building.

"The criticism of the panel was really how someone walking on the street, walking into the building or walking out of [Waterfront] Station — how they are going to experience this building, which is a very, very large building on a very small site," chair of the urban design panel Ryan Bragg told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

Niall Collins, the senior vice president of development for Cadillac Fairview which proposed the tower, said the company will take another look at the project.

"We understood the message that there are certain aspects they want us to go back and re-visit, and to go back and collaborate with the city with certain points that were raised during the discussions," said Collins

 "The way the panel expressed some of their opinions. It's not to one single point. It's how many aspects work together.  And I think that's where the discussion was directing us to go back and have conversations with the city."

Collins says neither he nor his team has an exact time frame for when the redesign might be complete.

Fans and critics spoke out

Before it was rejected by the panel, the modernist glass and steel design was criticized for looking like a "geometric blob."

"It looks to me like a Jurassic Park rodent has chewed away at the ground," heritage advocate Anthony Norfolk told the Early Edition last week.

One supporter of the design was architect James Cheng, who designed a number of prominent Vancouver buildings, including the Shangri-La hotel. Cheng thought the sleek design would fit with the city. 

"Vancouver has been well-famous for our so-called Vancouverism — which is slim towers, open spaces and so on. This building actually carries on that tradition with a twist," he said.

To hear the full interview with Ryan Bragg, click the audio labelled: Why the origami tower was turned down.

To hear the full interview with James Cheng, click the audio labelled: James Cheng defends proposed waterfront tower.