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Butterfly build embraces nature as it reaches for the clouds

Warren Frey
Butterfly build embraces nature as it reaches for the clouds
HAYES DAVIDSON (BACKGROUND PHOTOGRAPHY ANDREW LATREILLE) — The Butterfly is a building planned for downtown Vancouver and designed by Revery Architecture to bridge highrise living with Vancouver’s natural surroundings.

Vancouver’s skyline is once again headed for transformation.

The Butterfly, developed by Westbank and designed by Revery Architecture, is an ultra-modern structure infused with natural elements and an attempt to preserve a Vancouver heritage landmark.

Once complete, it will be one of the tallest highrises in downtown Vancouver but will look unlike other towers in the surrounding area.

Key to its design is a series of open-air features that bring light and ventilation into each floor but also, according to designer Venelin Kokalov, “incorporate a feeling of connecting to the nature within.”

“In the beginning of our creative process, we wanted to create a building that touched people, their perception and experience more than just form and function,” he said. “We wanted to create spaces that change with the time of day and the seasons.

“We took the standard floorplate, sliced it in the middle and connected the two parts with outdoor bridges and in this way invited nature into the building.”


The Butterfly


Every floor has a garden which Kokalov said stemmed from a desire to eliminate standard highrise features such as dark corridors outside individual units. The gardens also address sustainability in a residential environment.

“In dark corridors, you have lighting and mechanical systems, and we remove it and by introducing natural cooling, passive ventilation and daylighting. We reduce the energy use of the tower by up to 10 per cent, which our consultants have said is equal to installing triple glazing on the tower,” he said.

The Butterfly also features curved forms wrapping around every floor giving the appearance of clouds while also distinguishing the structure from its surroundings.

“With any of our projects we pay special attention to how the buildings fit in the context and how they will affect the perception of the people that use it and also the people that see it. The white concrete clouds on the balconies and the sky reflection of the glazing make the building very distinctive from the surrounding towers,” Kokalov said.

The new tower is going up next to the First Baptist Church, one of the oldest structures in downtown Vancouver.

Part of the Butterfly project involves seismic upgrades and other improvements to the church while preserving its heritage elements.

“The restoration is really quite significant and complex,” Kokalov said. “It includes four components, the preservation, restoration and upgrading of the historic 1911 structure and the restoration of the 1931 interior.”

The church was previously restored in 1931 after a fire destroyed the interior and roof but left the masonry intact.

A new transparent gallery will also be built between the church and the new structure for use as a connection to additional spaces available in the new building, he said, including a school, gymnasium and day care.  

Revery Architecture was originally named Bing Thom Architects and the legendary architect had a hand in the early stages of design of the Butterfly, including naming the project before his passing in 2016. Kokalov designed a piano for the Butterfly lobby as a tribute to his memory.


Butterfly designer Venelin Kokalov designed a piano for the Butterfly lobby to pay tribute to the late architect Bing Thom.
REVERY ARCHITECTURE — Butterfly designer Venelin Kokalov designed a piano for the Butterfly lobby to pay tribute to the late architect Bing Thom.


“Bing was involved in the project. I was privileged to work with him closely for many years. He was a mentor and a friend, and I miss him a lot. I designed the Butterfly piano shortly after he passed away and I dedicated it to him,” Kokalov said.

Follow the author on Twitter @JOCFrey.

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