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Over the past two decades, beginning with Residences on Georgia, progressing through the Shangri-La Vancouver and Toronto, the Woodward’s re-development, the Fairmont Pacific Rim and Vancouver House, we have evolved into a more mature, well-rounded practice.

These large, complex mixed-use developments all share an emphasis on the integration of public art, and building them has compelled us towards thinking about our projects as more than just buildings. Although the artistry remains paramount, we want to create opportunities to shape the entire build-out of the city.

It was in this context that we discovered the word and philosophy behind “gesamtkunstwerk,” and came to the belief that it best represents a guiding philosophy for all of our projects, current and future. The key concept is taking the idea of the total work of art to a whole new scale – applying this philosophy for enlightened city-building.

This is the only word that adequately describes the intentions by BIG as architects and Westbank as developers for their Vancouver House collaboration, with its ground-breaking organic forms in concrete glass and copper, its re-thought interiors and apartment appointments, its integration into the skyline, its tapping into Westbank’s new “Creative Energy” district energy system, its inspiring public art by Rodney Graham, and its creation of significant new public spaces for the enjoyment of all Vancouverites.

In 2014, we opened the Gesamtkunstwerk Exhibition to engage the community in conversation about city building and afford Vancouverites the opportunity to peek under the hood of Vancouver House, a very special project. Nearly 20,000 visitors from 12 countries came to see 7 years of design work and a commitment to the philosophy of the total work of art.

This matters because the future of all countries depends on the success of our cities. Cities work because ideas come out of them. At Westbank, we hope that adopting a building mission around the concept of a total work of art results a giant leap forward – not only from technical and sustainability perspectives – but for all aspects of our cities. Vancouver is known as the most livable city in the world for many reasons and we hope that this blog will contribute in a meaningful way to further raise the bar.

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