Architecture & Public Art
Westbank is dedicated to the creation of beauty, in all forms and in the broadest definition. As we have grown, the cate-gory of a developer has become too narrow to contain the essence of our practice. We are not motivated by the same things as a developer, our values are different: we invite collaborations with cultural pioneers, showcasing their work and allowing it to inform and influence our projects. We strive to develop relationships with creatives so that we function as patrons of their art, rather than as consumers of artistic services. We embrace our eclectic nature, broadening our interests and seeking out willing collaborators in art, culture, music, fashion, technology, sustainability, and architecture, while taking on projects at every scale, from the micro to the macro level. We are and have always been a practice seeking to make meaningful contributions to the cities here we see the creation of beauty as the means to this end. Through these and other endeavors, we have come to realize that, too often, beauty is mistakenly thought of as a luxury, an option or an accessory, when we have never seen it as anything less than essential. Recognizing this, we have taken it upon ourselves to fight for it: to create it, to foster it and to celebrate it. In committing our efforts fully to this end, we have evolved beyond the definition of a real estate development firm, to become a culture company.
One of the great pleasures of working at this level at the global scale, comes from the privilege of collaborating with some of the world’s most accomplished artists. Many of the architects with whom we work demonstrate a combination of ingenuity, originality and inspiration that would distinguish their artistry as among the best work being done in the world today. Add the amazing artists with whom we’ve worked on our public art and, suffice to say, we are exceedingly lucky to have these opportunities.
We have been privileged to work with architects like James Cheng, Gregory Henriquez, Bjarke Ingels, Kengo Kuma, the late Bing Thom, Venelin Kokalov, Michael Sypkens, Esteban Ochogavia, David Pontarini, Paul Merrick and Peter Busby on projects around the world. These are architects with both a breadth of vision and a talent for introspection, masters who look deeply into what they do, so they can better understand, refine and illuminate the essence of their art. With James Cheng, we have worked on numerous projects in Vancouver and Toronto that have changed the trajectory of the built environments in these cities. Today we are turning to Seattle to create First Light, a project that represents the core themes we have been exploring in our work since the beginning. With Gregory Henriquez, we began with Woodward’s to contrib-ute to our vision for more equitable and beautiful cities and, to date, we have created over a dozen projects together, including one of our troika of initial projects at 1200 Stewart in Seattle. With Bjarke Ingels, we have created one of the most celebrated pieces of architecture in the world with Vancouver House, changed the game in Calgary with TELUS Sky and, in Toronto’s King Street, invented an evolution of Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67 with King Street.
With Kengo Kuma, we now have five projects underway
in Vancouver and Tokyo, which represent among the most refined designs we have yet achieved. We were fortunate to work with the late Bing Thom and now Revery Architects principal Venelin Kokalov on two projects in Vancouver, The Butterfly and 1684 Alberni. We have begun working with two young, talented Tokyo-based architects, Michael Sypkens and Esteban Ochogavia, whose firm, Oso, emerged out of Kengo Kuma’s office, on 400 West Georgia, and on The Avior, in Tokyo. With David Pontarini, we are working on 19 Duncan, in Toronto, the future home of Thomson Reuters’ Global Inno-vation Hub. With Paul Merrick, we are working to create a seaside community at Horseshoe Bay that embodies the West Coast Modern architecture for which he is renowned. With Peter Busby, we are collaborating to create 707 Terry, adja-cent to Seattle’s Frye Museum, plus Vancouver projects at Broadway and Commercial and Joyce Streets.
As our practice continues to grow, we continue to build relationships with architects who inspire us and push our team to grow. We hope that all our future projects are chal-lenging enough to induce maximum creativity from master architects worldwide. Just as important, we hope that our projects will give us the opportunity to recognize and facilitate the emergence of new talent, as the next generation of archi-tects come into their own. We are excited to be working with talented designers like these now and look forward to future collaborations with more of the world’s great architects, designers and artists.
Public Art for Westbank, like so much of the work that we do, is at once a project in itself and a part of a larger idea that has woven its way through our practice over time. That idea is that our projects are not buildings, but rather they are the physical embodiment of culture. Combined, our public art commissions form a body of work that is quickly becoming one of the broad-est and most important collections created by any developer in the world. To date, we have 30 installations, either complet-ed or underway, by some of the world’s most accomplished artists. The opportunity to work with these artists to create something that serves as both an additional layer for our buildings as well as an important cultural contribution to the city, is a gift we find deeply rewarding.
Our public art initiatives come from a desire to exemplify the successful integration of art into architecture and to use our projects as a platform for creative expression. When you think of architecture practised well, it is an art form. The public art we include is intended to complement the artistry of our buildings. They are designed to challenge, to add meaning and provoke thought in a manner that cannot be achieved solely through architecture. The end result is a project that melds creative expression with form, creating a moment of beauty, of provocation and of inspiration for the city of Seattle and its inhabitants.
Since we began incorporating Public Art into our projects, we have worked with internationally renowned artists on projects whose scope, size and ambition have redefined conceptions of art in the public realm. Diana Thater’s Light Art used neon lights to mirror the colors of the surrounding natural envi-ronment in a stunning display that spans the height of the building. Liam Gillick’s installation, lying on top of a building the clouds looked no nearer than when I was lying on the street made a provocative statement across the Fairmont Pacific Rim. Zhang Huan’s Rising created an unforgettable sculptural moment outside the Shangri-La Hotel Toronto.
As our practice has matured we have begun to commission more complex and ambitious public art work. We see public art as an opportunity not just to enhance our projects but to contribute to the culture and vibrancy of the built environ-ment. One of our most important upcoming Public Art projects will be Rodney Graham’s Spinning Chandelier at Vancouver House. Our most recently completed piece, Martin Boyce’s lantern installation, Beyond the Sea Against the Sun will illuminate the laneway at TELUS Garden, providing an entirely new public space and reimagining the typical laneway for the City of Vancouver.
Westbank’s commitment to public art is consistent with the many other cultural initiatives that make up our practice. Initiatives such as the Westbank Piano Program with Fazioli, ongoing exhibitions in BIG’s Serpentine Pavilion, our vintage couture collection, our partnership with Goh Ballet, our music business, the cultural hub we’re developing in Blood Alley, our support of Keys to the Street and many other programs together and alongside the effort we put into the architecture of our projects, are what sets Westbank apart.
At First Light, artist John Hogan is working alongside architect James Cheng in the production of a total work of art in Seattle, adding a further layer to what is already one of the more multi- layered projects we have yet built.
At the end of the day, we hope that each individual layer or detail of our work will stand alone as something inherently beautiful, while forming part of a larger, more complex outcome.