VanDusen Botanical Garden | Visitor Centre

Type of Building
Community & Recreation, Tourism & Specialty
1,810 sq. m.
Structural Engineer
Fast + Epp
Construction Manager
Ledcor Group
Project Owner
City of Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation
Wood Supplier
StructureCraft Builders Inc.
Glue-laminated timber (glulam), Lumber, Plywood, Millwork

Project Overview

The petal structure of a native British Columbian orchid is the inspiration for this building’s curvaceous, undulating timber roof floating over rammed-earth-and-concrete walls. The complex, nearly all-wood geometry was made possible through advancements in 3-D modelling technology. Located in a fifty-five-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. 

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.

Wood Use

The whimsical, prefabricated wood roof is constructed of more than seventy unique trapezoid-shaped panels that not only include a finished ceiling, but neatly tuck away mechanical and electrical systems. Each panel is composed of double-curved glue-laminated timber edge beams, dimension lumber roof joists, and a Douglas-fir plywood–slat exposed ceiling that gives an organic, ribbed appearance to the underside of the roof. 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 thirty-metre-long curved bench, made from milled reclaimed timbers, that appears seamless and suspended.