Neil M. Denari Architects


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Site Design: INNER IDEAL
©2024 NMDA_LA

Year of the Dragon

902 Davie / 2027
Vancouver, B. C.

Site:                Vancouver, B.C.
Program:       Mixed-Use Residential Tower
Size:               185,000 sf
Status:           Schematic Design
Exec Arch:    Bingham + Hill

Project Team: Neil Denari, Hideyo Kameda,Erfan Zamani,Jeff Chinn

The Lions / Image: Wikipedia


Globally known as a green, walkable, and livable city, Vancouver is a major port in the constellation of world cities that dot the perimeter of the Pacific Rim. As the northernmost hub of the West Coast of North America, Vancouver demonstrates how urban growth and natural resources can be smartly managed. Like cities such as San Francisco, London, and even Chicago, ones that have dense centers and a lower rise periphery, Vancouver is leading the way in developing sustainable practices that others are now adopting. Indeed, chief among them is the protection of important views through and around the growing downtown skyline known as the 27 View Cone corridors.

While the city’s own description of the “backdrop of the mountains behind Vancouver’s skyline signifies the city’s connection to nature and aligns with its goals around sustainability” is a powerful statement, our proposed project seeks to go further to foreground, both physically and poetically, the natural resources protected in the view cone that passes across our site at the corner of Davie and Hornby. It is a condition which has given rise to a unique building that will both fit in and stand out in the urban context. The Lions, (Squamish: “Ch’ich’iyúy Elxwíkn” or Twin Sisters) is the most famous landform in all Western Canada and this inspired a project that, we hope, will add to the history and lore of the city.


As one in a trilogy of three towers along Hornby Street (between Drake and Davie Streets), the site for 902 is an important anchor point in Davie Village. With a 300ft height limit and a proposed FSR of 11.2, the project aims to deftly negotiate the existing (and future) context through compliance with the view cone corridor and shadow mitigation techniques, both of which produce an environmentally compatible yet formally provocative building form.

At the corner of Hornby and Davie, the B1 Charleson Seawall to The Lions view cone passes diagonally across the site, a line that establishes, in both plan and section, a significant geometric aspect of the overall building mass. In combination with the sectionally dominant light/shadow plane that establishes the sloped peak to the building, a unique form emerges, one that will surely stand out in the Vancouver skyline.  To these site-driven constraints, we add slopes of our own that further facet this prismatic mass. An east facing slope smoothly connects the triangulated plan-based mass above to the square plan-based mass below, a kind of shape shifting move that is rarely found in tower form. At the lane, another slope is introduced to further blend the podium to the tower (more on that below) and to open space up for light penetration into the mid-block pedestrian corridor.

The B1 view cone preserves the view across and through downtown, leaving buildings in its path to act as framing devices.  The reciprocity between void (the view) and object (the building) will not always be read obviously within the city, but from distant views it will be apparent. Images of the Lions and Coastal Range peaks and spires are held in Vancouverites memory, and the inspiration for the building we hope will be understood both intuitively and by explanation. Even still, the building on its own will have its own logic and autonomous formal qualities.

Indeed, in a dense urban setting, buildings, especially tall ones, are designed around both found and imposed conditions, and in this, 902 Davie is no different. Yet the very ambition to protect the view of nature has given us a building that mirrors the type of landforms that are protected.


The Lions twin peaks are among the city’s, indeed Canada’s most cherished and famous topographic landforms. Especially when seen in the snow, these white spires, and others in the Coastal Range, have given us the inspirational blueprint for 902 Davie in terms of material and form. Given the crystalline slopes and facets found within urban logic, it formed a kind of natural affinity with the geologic form of The Lions.  The mineral aspect of The Lions (Hornblende Diorite igneous rock) combined with its more popular snow-capped image presented the idea that 902 Davie could be a masonry building, as if projected from the mountain range beyond, at the terminus of the view cone.  Our project is modeled therefore on a single snowy peak, all near white, and shaped by natural, urban, and formal ambitions into a robust, peaked mass.


In continuing the metaphor of nature, has there been anything more apparently ‘natural’ to Vancouver development than the Podium/Tower building type? With urban street-wall mass demanded on the lower levels, filled with diverse programs and slim towers above, this typology follows incredibly clear urban and economic logics. As a mixed-use project, 902 Davie has, at least on paper, the same sort of ambition to define both street level urbanity and the skyline. Yet, we have taken a fresh look at how programs and massing can work together differently, to allow a new building form to emerge.

While 902 Davie works completely within the given limits of the zoning envelope, we have nonetheless sought to evolve the simple podium/tower relationship. To achieve this, we have ‘floated’ the perforated mass for the most part on columns, which in combination with strategic moments of sloping façade surfaces, gives the building a highly particularized relationship to the street. As the mass of the tower merges with the podium at the Hornby / Davie intersection, with a façade pattern that covers both elements, the discrete nature of each creates a singular whole.

A large window (serving the office floors behind) on the Hornby façade changes further the identity of the podium as a horizontal base into a more a graphic reading of the overall building. Moreover, as one moves around the building, its profiles and proportions are constantly changing, giving the city a unique, shape shifting icon.