VanDusen Botanical Garden | Visitor Centre

Location

Vancouver, BC

Size

1,810 square metres

Completion

2011

Architect

Perkins and Will

Structural Engineer

Fast+Epp

Construction Manager

Ledcor Group

Wood Species

Douglas-fir

The petal of a native British Columbian orchid is the inspiration for the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre’s curvaceous, undulating timber roof floating over rammed-earth-and-concrete walls. 
  • Swooping timber roof design made possible through precise prefabricated technology.
  • Timber roof’s intricate design offers practical and sustainable design benefits.
  • In the lobby, a 30-metre-long curved bench, made from milled reclaimed timber, appears seamless and suspended.

The complex, nearly all-wood geometry of this visually artistic building was made possible through advancements in 3-D modelling technology. Located in a 55-acre conservatory in the heart of Vancouver, the building functions as a community-oriented centre for the botanical garden; it has a café, library, volunteer facilities, garden shop, offices, and classroom space for meetings, workshops, lectures, and private functions. 

Swooping timber roof made possible through precise prefabrication 

The whimsical, prefabricated wood roof is constructed of more than 70 unique trapezoid-shaped panels that include a finished ceiling and neatly tuck away mechanical and electrical systems. Each panel is composed of double-curved glue-laminated timber (glulam) edge beams, dimension lumber roof joists, and a Douglas-fir plywoodslat exposed ceiling that gives an organic, ribbed appearance to the underside of the roof. This made possible through precise offsite prefabrication using computer numerical cutting (CNC) technology. The ceiling’s curves are reflected in finishings including the exterior wood walls; interior sliding doors; the front of the reception desk; and, in the lobby, a thirtymetre-long curved bench, made from milled reclaimed timbers, that appears seamless and suspended.  

Intricate design offers practical and sustainable design benefits  

Once inside, the eye is naturally drawn to a glazed oculus that leaves the atrium awash in the warm glow of wood and natural light. This striking design gesture assists with natural ventilation by operating as a solar chimney and aluminum heat sink: it converts sunlight into convection energy, stimulating air movement throughout the space. A green roof is installed atop the building; one of the petals is a rainwater catch basin and another holds a solar hot-water tube array. The dramatic, yet delicate design breathes new life into the nearly forty-five-year-old botanical garden.