A guiding light in Vancouver

Friday 14 Mar 2014

Arno Matis Architecture uses responsive density design to create Aperture residential scheme for the Cambie Boulevard

With the introduction of the Canada Line along Vancouver’s Cambie Street, the Cambie Boulevard now transports over one hundred thousand transit riders per day. Despite route popularity, many station sites are still surrounded by low density, single-family neighborhoods.

Using Vancouver’s Cambie Corridor Plan as a direction for redevelopment, Arno Matis Architecture (AMA) sought to expand on the transformation of this major city street using their new approach to urban development: Responsive Density Design. Here, AMA doesn’t propose a site and program as if it was a standalone object, but rather as a response to its urban environment.

“We are really interested in understanding all the forces external to the immediate site that could shape a development. In this way, the building becomes a ‘residual form’ in response to unique conditions of the context,” explains Arno Matis, MAIBC. “For The Aperture Building, we formed the buildings around a cruciform courtyard to reduce shadow impacts on neighbouring sites, permitting the penetration of light and views through the site.

“We introduced a mid-rise stepped form along the main street (41st Ave), and transition down to two storey villas along the lane, all on the lot depth of a typical single-family home in Vancouver. The transition in scale from six storeys to two is sympathetic to the single family homes to the immediate north of the site and works to greatly reduce shadow impacts.”

AMA’s used their ‘responsive density’ design process to maximise site density and leverage up intangible value while minimising neighbourhood impact. To respect the existing scale of the area, AMA broke down massing into a campus of smaller buildings. A smaller massing scale provided for shallow, yet incredibly efficient, floor plates; a hybrid of slab-block and high-rise floor plate typology. The residual form maximised the building’s perimeter, access to sun and views on the upper levels, increasing suite value.

Massing fragmentation via ‘responsive design’ was continued through the treatment of the frame facades, where AMA introduced an ‘aperture-like’ vocabulary that simultaneously provides large outdoor deck spaces and passive shading. The aperture-like frames camouflage density by fragmenting it. Angled insets within each frame control sun access and create additional floor area, further increasing floor plate efficiency.

This project uses aperture-like sunshades which respond to the unique solar exposure of each façade. The angled aperture walls are proposed to be built with glass and wood veneer panel, the first of its kind in Vancouver. The building form of the ‘aperture’ vocabulary evolved as an element that functioned as an external deck and sunshade but could be manipulated to respond to the unique solar exposure of each façade. The solar signature of each façade was carefully mapped and the result was a tailored system that is not only an effective passive solar control tool but also creates functional outdoor space.

AMA designed the Aperture building with ‘social porosity’, encouraging residents to connect in as many ways as possible and on multiple levels. The building is carved out with open, public spaces designed to encourage interaction in what is a typically introverted, single-family suburban neighbourhood. Internal and exterior amenity spaces in the heart of the development and along public walkways encourage residents to interact with the public, and each other. Roof decks, often allocated for private ownership, are designed to be common outdoor areas.


Developer: William Wang, Buffalo Investment (Canada) Ltd
Architect: Arno Matis Architecture
Structural Engineer: Fast + Epp Structural
Mechanical/Electrical Engineer/Sustainability Consultant: Integral Engineering
Landscape Architect/Public Engagement: Pfs Studio
Code Consultant: Lmdg Code Consultants
Geotechnical Engineer: Geopacific Engineering
Acoustical Engineer: Brown Strachan Acoustic Consultants
Traffic: Bunt & Associates Transportation Engineering
Envelope Consultant: Spratt Emanuel Engineering
Costing / Cac: Bty Costing Consultants

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