Located in a vibrant neighborhood in Vancouver, Canada, the Sunset Community Centre was conceived as a link between nature and the multi-cultural communities that surround it.
The original Sunset Community Centre was sited two blocks from the nearest major street, lacking visibility and accessibility. To better serve the community, the re-development of the community centre situates the building on Main Street, a major north-south thoroughfare while sitting harmoniously among the fields, greenhouses and planting beds of the adjacent city nursery.
Comprised of five core components, Sunset Community Centre is capped by a dramatically curved roof, which in turn generates a series of curves and vibrant forms in the walls and floors below. The five main sections—administration, gymnasium, multipurpose, fitness, and preschool/youth activities—are united by double-height corridors and a cantilevered second floor walkway.
These program areas each achieve a distinct formal identity through the undulating roof forms which derive from the re-grading of the site where excavated material was used to form a series of large scale rolling grassy berms. These curves are repeated on the interior where wood ceilings rise and fall to give shape to the gymnasium and other major rooms, creating a strong connection to the exterior landscape.
The three primary elements of the building are the tilt-up concrete walls, the curvilinear roof and the curtain wall. The primary structure is composed of tilt-up concrete walls. The intent was to take a technology typically used for cheap big-box construction and push it into something more meaningful. The walls are comprised of 46 panels in total, each one uniquely shaped. To keep the architecture elemental, electrical conduit and some mechanical chases were cast in the walls to hide the services.
The roof structure of the new Sunset Community Centre echoes the topology of the land and suggests a sari floating in the air—a reference to the Indo-Canadian neighborhood at its edge—is constructed with open-web steel joists. The joists themselves are straight and each one sequentially rotated in section, with the steel deck tying the system together to create the curves. The joists bear on the tilt-up walls and on elliptical columns at the curtain wall.
The glazed curtain wall unifies the exterior with its strong horizontal pattern relieved by the distribution of three types of glass lights: clear, fritted in a striped pattern, and opaque white. As well as controlling solar heat gain, the distribution of these different panels varies to suit the function of the spaces enclosed and serves to control views to and from the building. Interior glazing completes this effect by opening up rooms to the circulation spines. A linear skylight running over the main corridor expresses the bisecting internal streets while illuminating the interior even on the rainiest days.2
A restrained west-coast palette of concrete, glass and wood, selected for their sustainability and local content, harmonizes with the landscape and gives the building a timeless quality. The polished, mottled concrete of the floors and walls is balanced by the hemlock panels of the ceiling and walkway. The fritted-glass façade of the front elevation reads as a playfully random checkerboard grid with its squares alternating playfully between opaque, translucent and transparent. Strategic window placement provides views to the adjoining plant nursery on the east side and peek-a-boo views to treetops and traffic on the west.
Architect: Bing Thom Architects
Structural Engineer: Fast + Epp / StructureCraft
Mechanical Engineer: Stantec
Electrical Engineer: Stantec
Contractor: Haebler Construction
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