The ancient Romans and Greeks devised design processes in which the interior environments of buildings could be controlled through natural means such as the clever positioning of their layouts, physical orientations and windows.
Throughout industrial history, this basic principle hasn’t changed, with modern architects using solar orientation techniques taken straight out of the notebooks of classicists. The adherence to such historical styles has gone virtually unchanged…until now.
Adding a modern twist to this historical technique is world renowned architecture firm BIG with their curving Vancouver-based skyscraper, the Beach and Howe Tower. Located in downtown Vancouver, the building will act as a gateway into the city and offers a strikingly new skyline aesthetic.
Designed as a mixed-use development, the 49-storey building is expected to house up to 600 residential units. While there are a number of incredibly innovative design features included throughout the building, it is the building’s remarkable shape – one that has been designed to fit into the urban context – that really sets it apart.
The skyscraper’s unusual, asymmetrical shape is a result of clever orientation planning, which holds a dual function. \
First and foremost, the designers’ goal was to ensure all residents of the building have access to clean air, free from noise or air pollutants. The only way to achieve this goal in such a metropolitan space was for designers to set the building back 30 metres from the adjacent Granville Bridge and remove all windows and balconies that overlooked the heavy traffic on that side of the building at the lower street levels.
Sunlight is also channelled effectively, with the building’s positioning helping to increase the intake of natural light while minimising ineffective solar heat gain.
Structurally, the building’s undulating shape creates a smaller, restricted, triangular ground floor plate, cutting the overall carbon footprint of the building.
As noise and air pollution passes up the building, the tower’s shape changes, cantilevering over the noisy dense industrial areas and taking on a rectangular form for the optimally-designed – and more desirable – upper level living spaces.
“The Beach and Howe tower is a contemporary descendant of the Flatiron Building in New York City – reclaiming the lost spaces for living as the tower escapes the noise and traffic at its base,” says BIG founder Bjarke Ingels.
Through this clever update on an ancient technique – along with a number of other green building features such as green roofs and terraces – the building will seek LEED Gold Certification.