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Emily Carr College is located on Granville Island which is a highly successful urban precinct on the waterfront in the heart of Vancouver.  The building context ranges from very small-scaled single storey shops to the industrial scale of a concrete plant and the superscale of a major high level bridge which spans over the island.  The natural context of the waterfront adds a marine character to the island and the buildings which occupy it, which has both industrial and recreational dimensions.

Emily Carr College is located on Granville Island which is a highly successful urban precinct on the waterfront in the heart of Vancouver.  The building context ranges from very small-scaled single storey shops to the industrial scale of a concrete plant and the superscale of a major high level bridge which spans over the island.  The natural context of the waterfront adds a marine character to the island and the buildings which occupy it, which has both industrial and recreational dimensions.

The building program required 60, 000 square feet of studios and associated spaces, including a library and large lecture theatre, and 255 parking stalls located across the street from existing college facilities.  Because subsurface conditions on Granville Island make building a parking garage entirely below grade impracticable, the fundamental urban design problem is to position a college building on top of a three storey parking garage while maintaining the small-scale, pedestrian-oriented character of Granville Island. A related concern is the importance of establishing a direct and comfortable relationship between the college and the street in spite of the elevational difference thus created.

 

The general distribution of the building’s spaces is driven largely by an attempt to minimize the building’s apparent bulk and the impact of the parking garage on the character of surrounding streets. The garage is hidden from view by construction on three sides; along Old Bridge Street and Railspur Alley existing buildings have been preserved to screen it, and along Johnston Street the college library obscures the garage while providing a publicly-accessible amenity at street level. The library is developed as though an autonomous institution, provided with its own street entrance, with the object of fostering pedestrian activity on the street and drawing attention to the public nature of this part of the college. Above, the majority of the college program area, and the building’s bulk, is contained in a two-storey bar set well back from the streets, the upper level occupied by the traditional fine art disciplines, and the lower by the professionally-oriented design disciplines. The remaining program components are smaller-scale elements, academic offices and seminar rooms, which are distributed in a somewhat freer manner above the library, around a double-height, glazed concourse space. The effect of this organization is the creation of a more permeable edge between the major spaces of the college and Johnston Street. To further diminish the apparent mass of the building, service elements, such as exit stairs, elevators, and mechanical rooms, have been held proud of the main building volume, introducing detail and complexity at the building’s edges.

The organization of the school about the central, street-like concourse provides the facility with a common space that may be used for exhibitions and other public events, as well as for general building circulation. Both roof and wall glazing in this area is operable, rendering it, in favourable weather, an outdoor space contiguous with Johnston Street.

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