Many years ago while travelling throughout Europe I discovered the work of Spanish architect Santigo Calatrava. I was immediately drawn to the marvellously complex yet elegant architectural forms of his structures (especially his bridges). Almost always executed in white, the colour (or absence thereof) served to enhance the beauty of form and suggest a sculptural quality, no surprise since Calatrava is also a sculptor. Recently I came across his Turning Torso hi-rise project in Sweden and not long after, two Arthur Erickson projects slated to be built in Vancouver: The Erickson and 1133 West Georgia (the latter in collaboration with several other firms).
These buildings seem to share a common theme featuring a spiral form akin to a human torso twisting (Calatrava) or the interweaving twinstrand shape of DNA (Erikson). In fact, the Twisting Torso is said to have a ‘spine’ in the form of a structural element running along the outside edge of the building. This rotational effect is looking a lot like the latest architectural trend, and Calatrava is proposing building a similar tower in Chicago which will, when built, be the country’s tallest skyscraper, the first for an apartment building. At least he’s chosen two different cities to build his buildings in.
It seems like the kind of architecture that puts a city on the global map is always the most controversial. Personally, I’d rather have a mix of unique architecture that stirs debate and inflames reaction rather than most of the bland unadventurous and ubiquitous glass backdrops that too often go up. Erickson and Moshe Safdie (the library) are a good start, but Vancouver would be well advised to roll out the welcome mat to a few other internationally recognized architects.