151 West Hastings Street (the Ormidale Block) is a four-storey Edwardian commercial building on the southern edge of Vancouver’s historic Gastown district. Designed in the Romanesque Revival style, the building’s richly detailed terra cotta and brick front façade is a valuable part of the streetscape. But Gastown’s Hastings Street district is evolving, and this building is part of that change. This renewal allows Ormidale Block to meld with its increasingly modern surroundings while retaining some of its heritage esthetic.
The project was recently recognized by the Canadian Urban Institute for its site specific responses to public policy, enhancement of the public realm and imaginative adaptive reuse of a heritage structure, winning a brownie award for REBUILD project development.
DESIGN CHALLENGE The client envisioned this building as a commercial space catering to the technology companies steadily migrating to Vancouver’s Historic Gastown District. The design for this renewal also had to strike a balance between the existing heritage feel of the street and a modern look that’s bringing this neighbourhood into the 21st century.
Because Ormidale Block is listed on the City’s Heritage Register, the Hastings street façade had to be restored to its early 1900’s heritage character, a costly endeavour.
The best way to offset the cost of renewal was to create additional commercial space, a significant challenge given the limited floorplate and lot space. Ormidale Block was built to the lot line without setbacks and is now tightly sandwiched between two party walls and a rear lane. Creative design solutions were needed in order to provide additional floor space, as well as such modern building requirements as parking, loading and recycling facilities.
DESIGN EXCELLENCE Our design team began by working with a heritage consultant and researching city archives to document and detail the character-defining elements of the original Hastings Street façade. Using laser scans of the existing building, we ensured that designs for the new façade would match the original heritage character of the building. Field investigations were also conducted to ensure that the façade is contextual in scale, rhythm and proportion.
Because development to the east and south of the Ormidale Block had disrupted the rear laneway, giving the rear façade of the building a significant presence along the Cordova Street Corridor, we proposed a new rear façade that would more closely match the evolving streetscape. Our design team negotiated with the City’s Urban Design and Heritage Departments to rethink typical heritage procedures, which tend to focus only on preservation. Ormidale Block’s original rear façade, defined by small punched windows and little connection to the surrounding alley, was no longer appropriate in its current context. Our design adapted the shape of the windows to evoke a more modern esthetic, while using Corten steel and rust-coloured brick to evoke a heritage feel.
CONTEXT Our work should always contribute to the surrounding urban fabric. In this case, it was redeveloping the back alley, as well as providing a transition for the area to a more modern esthetic while preserving heritage elements.
Given that there is an existing modern development to the east of 156 Hastings and more heritage buildings to the west, we felt this location was a way to transition between the two. In the laneway façade, we played with the shape of the windows to evoke a more modern aesthetic. But the Cortan steel and rust-coloured brick we used both have a heritage feel, striking a balance between old and new.