Westbank has built a practice around long-term commitments to artistry, sustainability and city-building. These commitments underlie an orientation towards projects like Woodwards, Vancouver House, Mirvish Village, Telus Garden and Oakridge – catalysts for larger change that go beyond the borders of the projects themselves. We are here to create. To provoke. To ignite. We are the vehicle for a new movement of cultural expression.

As the practice matures, we have become more ambitious. With every new project reflecting our commitment to the philosophy behind Gesamkunstwerk, or in our recent work the Japanese philosophy behind layering, the net effect is that our work becomes much more complex and far-reaching.

The core of Westbank’s mission is to create a body of work with a high degree of artistry that helps foster more equitable and beautiful cities. Westbank is active across Canada and in the United States, with projects including luxury residential, Five Star hotels, retail, office, rental, district energy systems, affordable housing initiatives and public art. Established in 1992, we are one of North America’s leading developers, with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Seattle, Shanghai, Beijing, Taiwan, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shenzhen and over 25 billion dollars of projects completed or under development.

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May 23, 2014

Bold City-Building Ideas Generated at Gesamtkunstwerk Exhibition

Gesamtkunstwerk, the multi-media exhibition on architecture and city-building, developed by Westbank Projects Corp. and designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), will be extended through May 30, due to popularity and overwhelming demand. In the eight weeks since opening, more than 15,000 visitors from 12 countries have looked at the thought, skills and passion that go into city-building, with focus on the BIG designed Vancouver House.

One of the highlights and legacies of the exhibition is the Westbank Salon Series. The curated series of evening talks about the state of city-building in Vancouver is elevating conversation on the future design of the city and generating bold ideas from established visionaries and local residents.

“Our objective through the salon series and Gesamtkunstwerk was to generate dialogue on the applicability of ‘total design’ to improve our urban environment,” said Ian Gillespie, President of Westbank Projects Corp. “The reaction has surpassed all expectations. We have captured the imaginations of 15,000 plus people, while benefitting from the insights offered by Vancouverites and international visitors.”

Among the bold statements made by thought-provoking speakers at the salons:

“There is too much focus in public hearings, on everyone’s little individual concerns. That’s not how great movements happen. Good design is not done by committee. It’s not done from the ground up.” – Leslie Van Duzer, Professor and Director of the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.

“We cannot follow the models of US cities with dead downtowns and suburban sprawl.” – Mike Harcourt, Former Mayor of Vancouver, and the Former Premier of British Columbia.

“Tomorrow’s cities will be ones of intense, dense mixed-use buildings and neighborhoods; and short commutes.” – Larry Beasley, former co-director of planning for the City of Vancouver.

Attendees at the salons also had their say:

“I believe successful design leads to civic success and pride and acts as a magnet for tourists and business activity.” – Graham Handford, Graphic Designer at Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership.

On why is it important to have intimate and open dialogue around design and city-building, “Because it will improve the quality of our surroundings,” said Geoffrey Erickson, nephew of Arthur Erickson and manager of

“Sameness and predictability have been designed out, and livability has been designed in.” Trevor Boddy, Exhibition Curator, on the revolutionary impact of Vancouver House.

The focal point of Gesamtkunstwerk is the Bjarke Ingels-designed Vancouver House, set to become the city’s’ most architecturally significant building when it joins the Vancouver skyline in 2018.  The spectacular 52-storey multi-use tower is set to rise from the north end of the city’s central Granville Street Bridge. Its innovative design twisting from a narrow base into a rectangular tower is a response to its challenging location in close proximity to the bridge and adjacent buildings.

Gesamtkunstwerk is a free exhibition located at 1460 Howe Street in the renovated storage building where Vancouver House will be developed. It showcases the city’s architectural coming-of-age and explores the thinking behind contemporary city-building, featuring scale models, videos, 3-D wall texts, commentary from Vancouver’s city-building visionaries and guided, audio tours.

With the conclusion of the exhibition, the space will be transformed to a sales centre for Vancouver House and re-open, by appointment, in late June.


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