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In Vancouver to discuss his work, Japan’s leading architect, Kengo Kuma, personally revealed plans for his first North American, large-scale residential tower – Alberni by Kuma – proposed for the globally renowned city on Canada’s westcoast. Westbank and Peterson, Canada’s premier developers of luxury, mixed-use projects, have engaged Kengo Kuma, and his firm Kengo Kuma and Associates (KKAA) to design the 43-storey tower near the entrance to Vancouver’s famed Stanley Park. The proposed tower is part of a small collective of internationally influenced designs in the city, under the direction of Westbank and Peterson.
The form of the building – a gentle curve – is the most important architecturally; the Japanese garden – a moss garden that surrounds the base of the tower – is the most important spatially.
“In Japanese space, boundaries are considered mutable and transient. This is always an important part of my work,” said Kuma. “In this project, the minimal glazing details and the layered landscaping blurs conventional boundaries to enhance the sense of continuity. The design celebrates the presence of nature in Vancouver.”
The connectivity and transparency of design is achieved through use of materials and rich subtle layering that begins at the base. The architectural components of the tower begin with small units; the panels on the facade, the timber of the woodwork, the planks in the corridors – all are aggregated into a larger whole, which form the tower. The use of anodized aluminum and glass on the exterior allow a reflection of the neighbouring buildings and sky, giving the desired external transparency. The use of various wood on the exterior and interior add a signature similarity to Kuma’s other iconic designs.
Located amongst downtown’s most vibrant streets, Kuma’s design will see a building that complements the evolution of the community. With a curved silhouette, the tower’s two carved semi-inclusions will create the appearance of spatial balance. The tower’s 181 residential units will be primarily located in the semi-inclusions and boast substantially sized patio spaces designed as open gardens to create personal urban spaces. The mixed-use development also includes a retail space and restaurant.
“I have always wanted to have a project in Canada because of its closeness to nature,” said Kuma. “Typologically, this is a large-scale project in North America, a dream for any foreign architect. We have done towers, but not to this scale and level of detail.”
“He is the architect without frontiers,” said Ian Gillespie, Founder & President, Westbank.