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 02, 2014

Westbank Salon Series: Jeff Derksen Recap

On the last weekend of Gesamtkunstwerk, we held three Westbank Salon Series sessions to close out the exhibition — the first being with poet and Professor of English at Simon Fraser University, Jeff Derksen.

Exhibition curator Trevor Boddy began the afternoon talk with an apropos statement: “Cities are built with words and ideas as much as brick and mortar.” Derksen regaled the crowd with stories of Vancouver a few decades ago, where the relationship between poets and artists in the city was intense, and the younger thinkers and disruptors — like Stan Douglas — hung out at the Walforf, the Maritime Club and Bodega. The places were, as Derksen said, the university seminars at the time, where these individuals talked about cities and ideas at length.

Derksen then posed a poetic question to the crowd: “Do we have to love the city we live in, and does it have to love us back?” He described his vision of a utopian Vancouver, one that is a living and livable ‘gesamtkunstwerk’, one that makes a shift from sustainable development to social sustainability. Derksen used Vienna as an example of a city that integrated an efficient system of social housing into its city’s infrastructure and has branded itself through working with engaged architects to achieve this greater community goal. Cultural denigration of social housing does not necessarily exist in other cities — Derksen declared we have to move away from the stigmatization of social housing, which is highly thought of elsewhere in the world.

Another observation was the incredible burden on the younger artistic and creative sets in Vancouver, ones who start with low-paying jobs and eventually have to move away, many choosing cities such as Berlin. Affordability continues to be a recurring topic for the public and for the city-builders who have participated in the Westbank Salon Series.

At the end of Derksen’s session, it was clear that this utopia he speaks of does exist in other places. The bigger question is, how does Vancouver move closer to that?




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