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 28, 2014

GWERK Profile No. 15,101: Mark Busse

It’s the last week of the Gesamtkunstwerk exhibition, and we have a few more GWERK Profiles to share before it all comes to a close. First up is Mark Busse, partner at Industrial Brand, resident Foodist and host of CreativeMornings, Interesting Vancouver and Likemind Vancouver.

Tell us about yourself and what you do.

My bio includes a bunch of stuff about managing a brand strategy and design consultancy that specializes in helping architecture, engineering and construction firms find their voice and realize their brand and marketing potential, but that usually causes people to glaze over and their jaw to go slack. Mostly I feel like one-part counsellor, one-part design nerd, and one-part storyteller — shaken, not stirred. I also masquerade as a design association executive, a writer, an occasional educator, a community engagement activist, and sometimes a TV commentator. Some people call me an “agitator”. What I like most of all is to cook for people.

What does the word “gesamtkunstwerk” mean to you?

First of all, I love the word. I love hearing how people stumble over the pronunciation and struggle to decode its meaning. For me, it’s an expression of how one must look beyond that which we see on the surface to appreciate all that is going on. So much of design, when done well, is invisible to most of us. I love how the word “gesamtkunstwerk” plays with this notion and the exhibit and salon series has invited people to look at the synthesis of many types of design and art to create something more, something better, something lasting — something that has been long overdue in Vancouver.

As the host of CreativeMornings, why do you see intimate dialogues such as at your events and the Westbank Salon Series, important to the growth and evolution of Vancouver?

I don’t think Vancouver is a particularly mature city in many ways, but things are changing and Vancouverites want more, they yearn for connection, for culture, for meaning. There are a number of speaker series that happen in the city, but few provide a truly engaging discourse on subjects that break down silos and invite everyone into a critical dialogue on occasionally uncomfortable subjects. But these are subjects that push us forward as a city and these events help us all understand our own potential and role in city and community building a little better.

As an entrepreneur, designer and foodie, what are the things this city does well and what are the things you would improve upon?

With a few exceptions of course, Vancouver is not a great place to own a business. It can be a slog to earn a living in this city for numerous reasons, but it’s getting a little better, and I’m hopeful. As a designer, I find that there is such a lack of understanding of the role and value of design, by the business community, the public and local government. As a foodie, I think Vancouver is a wonderful place to explore different styles of cuisine, and the more I travel, the more I realize how lucky we are to have access to such amazing ingredients right in our backyard. I think Vancouver is like a teenager working through the angst that comes with discovering her identity and is at risk of becoming an unsavoury character if not careful. There are many things I could list that I think the city could improve on, which reminds me of one thing Vancouverites do quite well: whine and complain without participating in finding solutions. So for anyone interested in some of my thoughts on these matters, I recommend reading the Engage City Task Force final report which I help author along with 21 other citizen members.

To you, why do other people need to experience Vancouver?

They don’t. Go way. Don’t come. Seriously. Alright, alright, if I must put it into words, I’d say Vancouver is worth experiencing because there is a calm, healthy energy here. Many would say it’s the natural surroundings, but I think it goes deeper than that — perhaps all the way back to its original First Nations inhabitants and their approach to life, each other and their surroundings. By no means are things perfect in Vancouver, but there are so many favourable factors in Vancouver, working in concert to create a wonderful, clean, safe, and inviting place to live, work and play. I have no idea who coined the phrase, “Home is not where you live, but where they understand you”, but I feel understood in Vancouver. It will always be my home.


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