Vancouver’s Spiral High-Rise Creatively Skirts Zoning Rules

To meet zoning constraints, the twisting skyscraper uses an innovative design that optimizes its small footprint.

1 minute read

January 12, 2023, 12:00 PM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


A helix-shaped high-rise designed by Bjarke Ingels Group in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia used its innovative design to skirt zoning regulations and fit the 500-unit building into a small footprint. “The high-rise couldn’t be too close to the street, it had to be at least 30 meters (nearly 100 feet) away from the Granville Bridge and it couldn’t cast shadows on a nearby park,” explains Amelia Pollard in Bloomberg CityLab.

Because the 30 meter bridge setback only applies to parts of the building below 30 meters in height, BIG created a design that widens as it rises and ensures that the building doesn’t block sunlight from the adjacent park. “Because of its twisting design, structural engineering played a large role in the construction. BIG consulted with engineering firms Glotman Simpson and Buro Happold to ensure the tower — which steps out around 80 feet — was stable enough to meet stringent building codes in this seismically active city.” The 80-foot tower features a stainless steel facade that reflects light.

According to Pollard, “The property also includes two adjacent, triangular lots that are sandwiched by the bridge and its off-ramps. The two buildings house a portion of University Canada West and ground-level retail,” utilizing the underdeveloped space around the bridge. 

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