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Developing Story: Cambie Corridor project poised as Oakridge gateway

Aperture wins rave reviews from Vancouver's Urban Design Panel

It’s a “cool building.” “Bold expression.” It will be like “living in an idea.” Those are some of the effusive comments members of the city’s Urban Design Panel made recently about buildings planned for West 41st Ave. between Willow and Baillie streets near Oakridge Centre.

The UDP advises city council and staff about development proposals or policies, including major development applications, rezoning applications, and other projects of public interest, although its decisions aren’t binding on the city.

In this case, the panel voted 8-0 in support of the development called Aperture destined for 799 West 41st Ave. It includes two large six-storey buildings and four two-storey laneway villas. They will be built on five former single-family lots.

The project first appeared before the UDP at the rezoning stage in 2012 when it earned support in an 8-0 vote. Rezoning was approved after a public hearing in September 2013.

This appearance before the UDP was for the development permit application, so the focus was more on architecture than issues like height and massing, which are dealt with at the rezoning stage.

Aperture, developed by Buffalo Investments and designed by the firm Arno Matis Architecture Inc., is one of the approved applications within the Cambie Corridor.

Arno Matis told the Courier it’s the most westerly site incorporated into the Cambie Corridor Plan, so it can be seen as a gateway into the Oakridge precinct, which will become a major hub in Vancouver, especially if the proposed Oakridge Centre redevelopment is approved.

“So we wanted to make sure, at least from the end, the building had some sort of gesture towards this idea of being a gateway location,” Matis said.

The firm also drew inspiration from the historical architecture in the area and the fact Oakridge was one of the last neighbourhoods developed in Vancouver.

“There’s some modernist buildings that you’ll see in the area with sunshades and sort of international-style office buildings, and so on, like the TD Bank on the corner of Cambie and 41st,” Matis explained.

“We definitely wanted to pick up on that notion of Oakridge being this community with a history of modernism.”

Because it was a rezoning, the project also had to meet high sustainability standards.

“We wanted to begin to look at ways of expressing an approach to sustainability not unlike some of these modernist buildings that had sunshades and various ways of controlling light on them in the area. So, we came up with a notion of... aperture,  iris, I think we called it, as a way of incorporating passive sunshading, but also creating a unique pattern on the exterior — play of light and shadow — and also a way of providing privacy, defining layers within the building, creating horizontality to the building proportion. All that kind of thinking got layered on top. That’s how we arrived at the kind of vocabulary, this expression of these projecting decks with framing edges to them.”

Stacked timbers was another inspiration to represent lumber mills on the Fraser River in past decades and the fact that the Oakridge area was wooded up until recent decades.

“So this idea of bringing wood imagery into the project was something we felt might create an attachment, a point of uniqueness to this particular area just because of the industries and things that were happening.”