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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June 03, 2014

GWERK Profile No. 16,895: Scott Hawthorn

With the Gesamtkunstwerk exhibition having come to a close, we can’t help but reflect on — with a sense of pride and hope — the big bold ideas and incredible people we have met over the past two months. For this week’s GWERK Profiles, we chatted with Scott Hawthorn, an entrepreneur, all-around creative and CEO of Native Shoes.

Tell us about yourself and what you do.

I’d best describe myself as a curious soul that expresses this in the form of creative entrepreneurship. I enjoy the pencil-and-paper-napkin-dreaming phase in the evolution of an idea, and usually try to bringing something new to the landscape rather than putting another similar widget on the shelf.

I had previously worked in Tokyo for 10 years at a French investment bank. Being in that environment exposed me to the beauty of Japanese life, as well as to the playfulness of the French culture in a wide range of things from architecture and food to culture and fashion. It has had a profound impact on me to this day.

My personal journey has enriched my view of the world, and this can be reflected in the things that I have been involved in bringing to our local culture ranging from Salt Tasting Room, Picker Shack Orchard, Parking Spot Creative Space and, most recently, as CEO of Native Shoes.

How does the philosophy of “gesamtkunstwerk” apply in your life and work?

I tend to be very experience-based and, thus, can be sensitive to the packaging detail, word spoken or shoelace end that has resulted in a lasting memory of the event or object as a whole to me. I try to reduce things down to their simplest, and then include a small detail that one would not expect to be there. The gift of the unexpected or humour can have a big impact on the whole experience.

Why do you think the Gesamtkunstwerk exhibition and its open format dialogue between city-builders and the public are important to this city’s future?

It’s important to any cities to have these dialogues. I feel that not enough of them have happened in Vancouver. It is nice to see them taking place in a public realm and, above all, be very well-attended. Out of the dialogue can come a better understanding by all of issues that relate to our environment that we all live in. I’d like to see these conversations continue to encourage people to dream big and see the world as full of possibilities rather than limitations. The Vancouver Art  Gallery will be another significant building that could be a conduit for this kind of discussion in Vancouver when it goes through its process.

With Vancouver House set to break ground within the year, how has the project piqued your interest?

It’s great to see that Vancouver House has encouraged the public discussions that it has. It has also looked at a site that many other developers would look at and not see any opportunities in it. When it comes down to it, you can build anything anywhere with the right will, approach and vision. I’d like to see other developers up their game in playing a role with architects becoming part of the public dialogue. Most residential towers don’t place architecture at the forefront of their storytelling in such a way that Vancouver House has done.

As someone who has lived, worked and created abroad before, why did you come back and put down roots in Vancouver?

I am originally from Vancouver and have friends and family here. After having lived in Tokyo, I felt like it was the right place to return to. It affords a healthy mix of work and play. It’s exciting to be able to participate in a young city that is open to new ideas, as it finds its path and calling. It’s fine to be inspired by New York, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong but Vancouver needs to find its own identity and that can only come from inside itself. Like anywhere, Vancouver has good and bad things but overall it has good ‘gesamtkunstwerk’!


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