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 09, 2014

GWERK Profile No. 12,037: Caroline Carter

Continuing our GWERK Profiles feature on the amazing contributors, influencers and people that make up Vancouver, this week we spoke to Caroline Carter, PR manager for Payfirma.

Tell us about yourself and what you do.

I’m the PR Manager for Payfirma, a local tech company that helps businesses accept payments on their phones, in their stores and online, but I like to think of myself first and foremost as a storyteller. I came to PR by way of journalism, which I pursued while living in Canada’s North, working for a First Nations-owned media outlet. Since then I’ve worked in fashion and lifestyle PR and now tech. I never imagined myself working in this sector but I absolutely love my job and the people I work with. Startup culture is exhilarating and addictive. When I’m not pitching stories and writing releases for Payfirma, I can be found walking my shiba inu, doing yoga, oh, and working on ANOTHER startup with my sister – I told you they were addictive!

How does the philosophy of “gesamtkunstwerk” resonate with you?

Design is everything. Working in tech and innovation, it’s at the forefront of everything we do: making a product that is truly disruptive in that it can shift the way people do things and the way they interact. In my time up North, I also witnessed how much design can hold in terms of culture, identity and interaction. The way a room is structured can shape dialogue, a piece of art in a foyer can shift the energy in a building, the inclusion of cultural reference can serve as an acknowledgement of other ways of living and knowing.  To me, design is not just about the way things look or even how they’re used, but a ripple effect in impacting human behaviour and thought. Whether that means inspiring us to create, asking us to consider or reconsider, giving us a space to gather or reflect or sometimes provoking us with a reason to, I never underestimate the impact of good design.

We spotted you here at the Textbook magazine launch a few weeks ago, which brought in a great creative and entrepreneurial crowd. What did it mean for someone as young, creative and entrepreneurial as yourself to come into this space and see what’s to come in Vancouver?

Anybody who saw me at the event probably heard me rave about how I felt like I was at a swanky art opening in New York (complete with a Dance Dance Revolution battle!). I think there is a fierce hunger for spaces like these in Vancouver, especially as we grow as a hub of innovation/technology, and our desire to be a part of something “cool” gets bigger. The best part of that party was that people were so appreciative to be in such a beautiful space, commenting not only on the awesomeness of the Textbook launch, but on the surrounding artwork. Despite the fact Vancouver is relatively small (and everybody tends to know everybody at a party), an inspired space can make everything feel new and different. So, yes, I’m so excited for what’s to come. I’m also so excited to have lived all over Canada and know, without hesitation, that this is the city I want to be in.

Our Westbank Salon Series centres on intimate dialogues around better city-building and design – what would you like to see improved upon, in order to elevate this city in those arenas?

I would like to see more diversity in construction and a healthy balance in terms of preserving heritage and pushing the envelope. I love, in equal measure, the buildings that are iconic in their historical significance and the newer ones that took a risk that still capture attention years later. I’d love to see more hardwood and heritage materials preserved and repurposed. And for newer developments? Well, as somebody who is aggressively looking for a new apartment, I’d love to walk into a building where I didn’t feel like I was entering into yet another khaki cube with laminate flooring. Finally, outdoor spaces, dog-friendly parks and places that encourage interaction are obviously great. There’s a reason why places like the seawall are endlessly appreciated. When you think about it, it is so amazing that a single paved road can create such a sense of community. You always smile at people on the seawall. We definitely need more places that make people feel like they are a part of something — especially as multicultural city.

To you, why is Vancouver such a world-class city?  

I’ve lived all over Canada and in Europe. I always come home. Vancouver has its flaws; it is still young and I think in some ways it’s still a bit unsure of itself, but I feel like this city is really starting to find its legs. The Olympics were a game changer because I think in sharing our amazing city with others, many of us saw it through new eyes and fell in love with it all over again. We’ve got incredible food, some beautiful architecture, access to spirit-shifting wildnerness and, as I mentioned, a growing reputation as a centre for innovation. Having TED here was definitely an affirmation of that. Regardless, I’ve always worn my Vancouver badge with pride, but these days I find I’m letting it beam out Care-Bear-Stare style.

Follow Caroline on Twitter at @CarolineJCeeTo read past GWERK profiles, click here


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