The Shipyards

by Amanda Grochowich

North Van Design Jam – Third Place Winner!

Click HERE for the full presentation.

Experience…The Shipyards

Amanda's submission respected the history of the site.

Amanda’s submission respected the history of the site.

For me, the challenge for this site was to transform the Wallace Shipyards from their position in history to an attractive, inviting public space that manages to honour the past, while celebrating, and encouraging, the potential of the future. By exploring the history of the site, from pre-contact, up through the World Wars and the height of shipbuilding, along the economic decline, up to the current moment: a time to celebrate the past and to nurture it’s future, I was inspired to develop the concept as:

– To create a space that beckons and encourages people to appreciate and commemorate life – as it was, how it is, and how it may be.

– This space weaves together historic threads into the present while nurturing a compelling future. Life is an experience – a story that is perpetually unfolding for people to relish (experience). The space is designed, both in its physical nature and it’s programming, to cultivate dynamic experiences and sensations.

The main overall points of my submission focus on three main themes: the overall site design, a sensory experience and the ability to encourage innovation and forward- looking programmes.

Through the design of the site, I wanted to preserve the original Shipyard orientation – that North-South line for the buildings, as well as the peaked-roofs. While somewhat limiting in its building use, it helps to give the area a unique feel – and to distinguish itself from the neighbouring areas. The architecture is reinforced through strong, bold, and bright colours – taking on the hues from the past while encouraging an innovative environment for the future.

The Flamborough Head has been maintained as a viewing deck, as part of the re- constructed Machine Shop. The strategic location of the Head will provide visitors a unique view of the Vancouver shoreline, while also being strategically located to inspire leading-edge products and services from the site, just like the ships that were originally built here.

The Flambourough Head is a magnificent artifact from the past – and it can be seen far across the water – additionally useful as an attraction for the Shipyard site.

The Shipyard site is fortuitously situated – as it is near the Seabus terminal, the Lonsdale Quay, the public transit nodes for the City of North Vancouver (and beyond), as well as near a variety of residential units and not that far from upper Lonsdale – a leisurely 30 min walk. Vehicular access has been maintained – in a traffic-calmed manner. During particular promotions and attractions vehicular circulation may be restricted, but under normal circumstances the regular amount of traffic, and parking, will be provided.

In terms of occupants, and use, the two buildings do have some over-lapping programming. The re-constructed Machine shop, at six stories, will be used primarily to house the campus for Capilano University. The footprint of the building is quite comparable to their current building, though there is a slight reduction in volume due to the set backs through the building design. Capilano University would be able to fill the second-six stories, with the first being reserved for temporary uses.

A major theme of this site design is that of ‘experience’ – and they rarely remain static and immutable. Using the NDSM former Shipyards in Amsterdam (the Netherlands) as a precedent, I propose to maintain the first floor for exhibition and work space for artists, students, community groups, business incubators, local entrepreneurs – innovative practices of all sorts. By having a constantly changing programme for the site – it encourages local residents to visit more regularly, while maintaining the irresistible pull for non-local visitors. It is also a large enough space to be easily transformed into a large, covered (particularly important given the region’s climate) area for larger events, while being able to be broken up into smaller sections in order to meet the needs of a wide range of exhibitors.

The second building is designed to house more ‘traditional’ forms of business ventures. Local entrepreneurs wishing to find some retail or work space would be ideal for this location. By collecting occupants that have specialty products, or a process that the public can witness, the site maintains an experiential, transformative feel. Occupants can include specialty café’s, restaurants, food stores – particularly those related to water or nautical endeavors – artisan shops, and new ventures. This site is not designed to compete with the Lonsdale Quay, just next door, but to complement the array of products, services and experiences available at the foot of Lonsdale.

The main inspiration for the public realm piece between the two buildings is the Solbjerg Square in Denmark. It is designed to be a truly sensational experience.

– Light: Landscaped light features play with the feel and theme of the site on a daily, and seasonal basis – remaining lit throughout the evening to encourage evening strolls.

– Water: Given the prominence of the waterfront, the site is an ideal location to play with water – building misters into the ground that can be spontaneous waterplay for children in the summer, creating reliefs in the groundcover for water to pool, incorporating mini-waterfalls along the sides of buildings or fountains (which can interact with the way the light plays across the site).

– Sound: In addition to the sounds of water misting through the site, historically- focused sound bytes could be placed throughout the site, to educate visitors about some key moments of the sites history – as an example, when women were able to join the workforce.

– Scent: Through planting design, sea-salt winds, and the fragrances from the local occupants, the site can develop it’s own, positive, fragrance.

– Colour: Through the use of vibrant building colours, and a planting design that encourages a change of hues throughout the seasons – reds and coppers for autumn, sparse greens for winters, bright green springs, and colourful summers.

– Touch: The scattering of historical artifacts throughout the site that visitors, particularly children, can touch and clamber over add an additional dimension to their ability to experience the site.

Life between buildings is important – it encourages people to come out, and to experience their surroundings. The Spirit Trail will connect through the site – offering people an easy way to be linked to the City – as well as a variety of places to sit and stand in order to encourage people to watch the going-on’s of the site. Having people sitting, watching, and enjoying the site will encourage others to come and do the same – the more stimulation one can have in a site, the more lively an area will be (à la Jans Gehl, Danish Architect).

Additional features for the site include:

– Traditional and Social Media Programming

– Temporary Uses for the Site

As industry creates more and more opportunities to capitalize on mobile technology, the site will be able to profit from having a mobile presence – through mobile apps, tailored text messaging campaigns and even QR codes.

Quick Response (QR) Codes could serve two main goals of the site 1) the dispersion of historical context and knowledge to interested visitors and 2) the promotion of the occupants’ work and services.

1. The City of North Vancouver can use this technology to disseminate location- specific historical knowledge. The QR codes would be designed to send the viewer to the City of North Vancouver’s (or an equivalent organization’s) relevant ‘History’ website, or be tailored to send a modest, few-hundred character, phrase to the viewer for smaller facts and figures.

2. Any organization – whether educational, service, retail or ‘other’ – would be able to use these codes to promote their on-site location, what they do, upcoming promotions or anything they would like to circulate. By being aware of the site’s opportunities, as well as up-coming opportunities, this feature will encourage repeat visitations.

The potential for temporary installations for the site is limitless – only a few shall be mentioned.

– With the exhibition space in the former Machine Shop, there will be plenty of space for Exhibits – related to Art, Culture, Children, etc.

– A Floating stage along the side of St. Roch Dock, can compliment the festivities planned for the Shipbuilders Square, as well as offering a unique attraction for the area.

– To close the section of Wallace Mews Road that runs along the waterfront in the summer and to turn it into a temporary beach. It offers local residents the opportunity to experience the sun and sand – without having to travel – in addition to offering up such tantalizing activities as sand-castle building, beach volleyball, boat watching and summer markets.