Posts Tagged ‘Gair Williamson Architects’

Insertion Points – Gair Williamson Architects

September 17th, 2009

Insertion Points – Gair Williamson Architects
cdnarchitect.com
Tevor Boddy
August 2009

 

A view of Williamson's own suite in the Paris Block.

A view of Williamson's own suite in the Paris Block. Photo Credit: Ed White

 

A small architecture firm is well-known for nimbly grafting and inserting new architectural elements into the existing urban fabric of Vancouver.

Clients turn architects from dreamers into schemers. Williamson has had a close and positive relationship with Salient Development, which is headed by the successful Robert Fung (son of the former Toronto Waterfront Commissioner of the same name), often sharing office space with the firm. Salient took more advantage of the transfer of development rights (TDR) policy than any other Vancouver developer, and now finds itself controlling nearly half the unplaced density benefits nearly a year into a city council embargo on their sale (the issue for City Hall is the mounting store of potential building density without sufficient sites to “land” it on specific locations in a developing-out downtown).
Williamson is responsible for one of the best applications of these Vancouver heritage mechanisms in his adaptive reuse and rooftop addition for Salient to the Bowman Block, part of a line of early 20th-century warehouses on Beatty Street south of West Georgia Street. Williamson’s design cut back the window-side floor plates of timber-beamed and wooden mill floors to open up two-storey lofts, with bedrooms set back to increase the sense of space, while revealing original elements of the 1906 structure–for example, the former beam seats are retained as a marker of the building’s past.
Similarly, designer and developer resisted invisibly bricking-over the line where the subtracted floor plate was excised, intending it to be left visible. In some of these loft condos, the location of the former floor plate is marked with a very contemporary steel I-beam, which also helps with seismic stiffening of the masonry shell building.

Clients turn architects from dreamers into schemers. Williamson has had a close and positive relationship with Salient Development, which is headed by the successful Robert Fung (son of the former Toronto Waterfront Commissioner of the same name), often sharing office space with the firm. Salient took more advantage of the transfer of development rights (TDR) policy than any other Vancouver developer, and now finds itself controlling nearly half the unplaced density benefits nearly a year into a city council embargo on their sale (the issue for City Hall is the mounting store of potential building density without sufficient sites to “land” it on specific locations in a developing-out downtown).

Williamson is responsible for one of the best applications of these Vancouver heritage mechanisms in his adaptive reuse and rooftop addition for Salient to the Bowman Block, part of a line of early 20th-century warehouses on Beatty Street south of West Georgia Street. Williamson’s design cut back the window-side floor plates of timber-beamed and wooden mill floors to open up two-storey lofts, with bedrooms set back to increase the sense of space, while revealing original elements of the 1906 structure–for example, the former beam seats are retained as a marker of the building’s past.

Similarly, designer and developer resisted invisibly bricking-over the line where the subtracted floor plate was excised, intending it to be left visible. In some of these loft condos, the location of the former floor plate is marked with a very contemporary steel I-beam, which also helps with seismic stiffening of the masonry shell building.

Read the full story at cdnarchitect.com


Friends: Gair Williamson Architects

May 26th, 2009
Paris Block, Suite 303 - Click image to see a larger version.

Paris Block, Suite 303 - Click image to see a larger version.

The Paris Block is one of several Salient/Gair Williamson Architects projects that are transforming Gastown into Vancouver’s center of artistic activism. Unit 303 at the Paris Block was conceived and executed by our team as a prototype for inner city living.

Holding a library, study, commercial kitchen, bedroom/gallery, and lounge with a 12’ dinning bar within 702 sq.ft.,  the apartment is only slightly wider than a parking stall.

Functioning as a live-work studio, the bed folds away, transforming the space into a gallery and event venue.

The unit contains a volume of storage that is three times the size of a standard condominium; Closets for coats, laundry, his/hers clothing, and a bathroom with a 10’ high shower.

In the long established tradition for completed GWA projects, a group of 28 B.C artists and film makers celebrated the completion with a spontaneous feast, before releasing the apartment into the community.

Unit 303 is a critical exploration into the larger issues pertaining to the architecture of affordable urban dwelling. This exploration is one of many undertaken in conjunction with Salient as we continue our investigations into urban densification.

Densification is fundamental to sustainable design; however, it often comes at the cost of dignity. As with other Salient/GWA projects, Unit 303 is an interpretation of how we can maximize livability in small urban spaces, within the context of the contemporary city.

To learn more about Gair Williamson Architects, please visit their website.


Home Makeover: Lofts To Love

July 25th, 2007
The 1911 Paris Block building on Hastings Street: next up for conversion.

The 1911 Paris Block building on Hastings Street: next up for conversion.

Lofts to Love
Salvaging the last of Vancouver’s heritage structures

By Peter Mitham
July/August 2007

PULL QUOTE: “Our whole goal is always to touch these spaces pretty lightly” Interior designer David Nicoloy of Evoke lnternotionol Designs Inc.

Turning derelict old Vancouver offices and warehouses into loft condominiums entails some of the challenges that face a homeowner renovating an older house: hidden surprises, higher-than-anticipated costs and a steep learning curve. 

This spring, the Salient Group brought one of the latest projects to market, the Paris building at 51 West Hastings. Completed in 1911, the five-storey former shoe factory is typical of the conversions taking place elsewhere in Vancouver’s historic core. When renovations are completed late next year, the building will feature 29 homes of approximately 750 square feet catering to buyers with a zest for urban living. Currently, Salient has started work on the Garage, which will combine an 1899 rope factory and a 1930-era auto centre into live/work spaces. 

But the demands in crafting trendy homes from old commercial space are daunting. 

“These small, infill sites really have to be in the right location,” explained Rick Ilich, president of the Townline Group of Richmond, which moved into the urban core in 2005 with an ambitious plan for six properties with a total of 197 homes in the Crosstown and Yaletown areas. 

“Construction’s slower, the trades aren’t necessarily making the margins they would on a simple, 30-storey building where they can just fl y, so you’ve got to make sure you’re in the location that can get the numbers that you need to make it worthwhile,” he said.

Two of Townline’s conversion projects – 1180 Homer, which completed this year, and 540 Beatty, set for to open next year – have had to balance economic demands as well as neighbours’ tolerance for the demanding work the projects require. A new, interior shell was built at 540 Beatty, for example, as part of seismic upgrading.

(more…)


Globe & Mail: Bowman Block: An over-the-top restoration

May 18th, 2007
The Bowman Block's new penthouses overlook Beatty Street.

The Bowman Block's new penthouses overlook Beatty Street.

Architect Gair Williamson has harmoniously blended old and new in a revitalization of Beatty Street’s Bowman Block 

Trevor Boddy
Globe & Mail Real Estate, Architecture spotlight
Friday, May 18, 2007

For the past half century at very least, Vancouver has been a cauldron of innovation for new housing ideas. In the 1960s we developed the West End’s trademark small floor plate, medium-rise apartment tower. Nudged upwards as the small floor plate high-rise condominium tower, this housing form is of increasing interest world-wide from Dubai to San Diego.

More recently, Vancouver has been developing housing hybrids – buildings that combine two quite different uses, or else two quite different physical formats of multiple homes. Divergent uses brought together by an unbeatable confluence of ultrahigh land prices and mandates from our all-powerful urban planners have prompted an unexpected laminate of functions: big box stores topped by the buttons and bows of rooftop condos. Vancouver is home to the world’s first Costco store capped by condominium towers, on Pacific Boulevard. 

Our city’s true main street, Broadway, is the location of a rising number of these large retailers sprouting layers of residences up top. First up was the SportChek store at Ontario Street and West Broadway, where several storeys of suites rise right above the roller blades and designer jogging togs. 

Condos over food stores is the new theme a couple of blocks west on Cambie, where one side of the street will soon see condos over the flagship Save-On Foods. The other side of the street will be home to condos on top of a competing grocery outlet – or American organic food giant Whole Foods. This company recently bought the Capers chain, who (at least temporarily), have a condo-topped store a few blocks up the Canada Line construction corridor. Soon we will all be calling it the “boulevard of munching dreams.”

(more…)