VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre by Perkins+Will
A recently-opened building that stunningly combines modern architecture and sustainable design has been turning heads in Vancouver, Canada, and among designers around the world. Officially opened late last year, the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre provides a beautiful and unique entry point to one of Western Canada’s most highly-regarded botanical gardens. The 1,765 square meter building was designed by Perkins+Will and is pursuing certification from the Living Building Challenge – a recognition applied to select structures that can exceed the LEED Platinum status.
The VanDusen Visitor Centre functions on both an organic and modernist level. To the visitor approaching the building from the park’s entranceway, it is a soaring glassy structure with a front roof overhang that shoots up towards the sky. This feature allows for maximum sun exposure and displays the interior’s curved features, faded wood tones, and stark metal poles to the outside spectator. Gently curving concrete walls at the visitor center’s periphery help the building blend seamlessly with the surrounding walkways.
The building blends just as seamlessly, albeit on a slightly different level, when approached from the park side of the structure. From this angle, grassy green slopes that cover a raised section of the park transition subtly into the visitor center’s roof, which has been built into the slope. In the middle of this green roof, the angular glass skylight of the structure’s central atrium pokes through and is delicately silhouetted against a backdrop of pine and native trees. The curving and sloping roof with the skylight center was strongly inspired by organic forms, specifically the natural systems of an orchid plant.
The green roof further helps make the building sustainable by reducing its heating and cooling needs. Other sustainable features include a photovoltaic system to generate electricity, a biomass boiler fed by wood waste to heat water, and a bio-reactor to treat blackwater on site. The building seeks to achieve net zero energy and carbon neutrality.
While the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre has received some criticism as a public structure built at a time when regular people are struggling to find employment and having trouble refinancing a mortgage, it will likely bring more people to an already-beautiful park and confer energy savings for years to come. On that note alone it is an impressive achievement.
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