Neighbourhood West End
Year Built est. 2022
Developer Westbank Projects
Architect Bing Thom Architects
Interior Designer Bing Thom Architects
Total number of residences 331
The Butterfly is one of the new generation of luxury buildings adding architectural elegance to Vancouver’s skyline. Its unique form, paired circular towers interconnected by breezeways, was first inspired by the pipe organs commonly found in churches. The building’s aerial view, conceptual rebirth through seasonality, and graceful undulating theme led to its subsequent association with a butterfly. The development is one of Bing Thom’s limited number of residential designs and also one of his final designs.
The undulating concrete representing clouds and reflective glass of the façade are intended to meld the building with the sky. The breezeways are common hallways on each floor and open to the environment offering expansive views, live vegetation in ‘sky gardens’, and communal furniture.
Being airy, bright, and easily accessible, the breezeways are intended to encourage neighbourly interactions and greater enjoyment of the natural environment. They also contribute towards sustainability by negating the need for air conditioning and reducing artificial lighting in hallways.
The 57 level (586 feet) tower will have approximately 331 condos, 510 parking stalls, and 417 bike stalls. Condos begin on level 5 and complete with the penthouses. The amenities for the condo owners are on the 5th level and include a 50 metre lap pool, perhaps the longest in a Vancouver residential tower.
The tower will be built concurrently with the revitalization of the First Baptist Church. The first 4 levels of the tower podium will be integrated with the church and serve the expansion of their social programs, including space for a daycare, a full-size gymnasium, multi-purpose rooms, a library, and offices.
The tower has a solid showing of family sized homes, those 2 bedrooms and larger. The rezoning application 2017 update to City of Vancouver projected the following housing composition:
- 136 one bedroom condos (floors 5 to 39)
- 159 two bedroom condos (floors 5 through 52)
- 36 three plus bedroom condos (floors 40 through 57)
The graceful undulating theme evident on the building façade is mirrored within the residences. Some smaller floorplans lack outdoor space while some larger residences have a considerable amount of outdoor space. The modern and clean residential interiors are projected to include:
- Large scale matte white flooring throughout all living areas
- Exterior walls lined with honed white pre-cast concrete walls with terrazzo finish interior
- Curved glass wall separation between the living room and second bedroom
- Custom designed, Italian crafted kitchen
- Soft-closing precision cabinet drawers and doors with wood-reveal interiors
- Custom designed kitchen island organically shaped with eucalyptus wood base and white matte solid surface countertops
- Countertops, sinks, and backsplashes finished in white matte solid surface
- Faucets finished as accent pieces in brushed brass (gold) or brushed stainless steel
- Miele and Sub-zero kitchen appliance package
As with all buildings that have an architecturally stylish exterior, the trade-off can be some curved and/or angled walls within the floorplan that may impede furniture layout and pathways. This is particularly important for smaller condos as larger floorplans can better accommodate curved walls. The Butterfly design team worked to minimize this impact and, where prudent, incorporated curvatures in the outdoor space to optimize the interior floorplan. Similarly, some walls that would typically be drywall, will be constructed with glass to modernize the aesthetic and optimize the sense of spaciousness.
VIDEO: Short video presenting The Butterfly form and style.
First Baptist Church – the restoration of the church was included in the agreement to provide church land to a developer for the tower. It is one of Vancouver’s oldest churches, dating back to 1911, and has a distinctive belfry tower and granite cladding as part of its Gothic Revival style. Its architects, Burke, Horwood and White, were based in Toronto and also designed the Hudson’s Bay building in Vancouver.
This church and the St. Andrew’s-Wesley Church across Nelson Street, frame one of the gateways to the West End. Both contribute to the number of grand heritage buildings lining Burrard Street, including the B.C. Electric Building, St. Paul’s Hospital, and the YMCA.
Source: Canada’s Historic Places
Financing heritage restoration – this project is reminiscent of that for the nearby YMCA where, in exchange for renovating the YMCA, Concert Properties was able to build the Patina at 1028 Barclay Street. In both cases, the provision of the land for the construction of luxury condos financed the restoration and expansion of the nonprofit buildings. According to the City of Vancouver project summary letter to Council, the restoration of First Baptist Church is estimated to require approximately $22 million.
Neighbourhood contributions – in addition to the restoration of First Baptist Church, the project will contribute approximately $60 million to City initiatives such as community amenities in the West End and social housing.
Rental housing – while a good number of recent downtown projects have a rental and/or social housing component within the main tower, this project sees the construction of a 7 level rental building alongside the tower. It will provide 61 rental homes, 20 of which will be market rental units and the remainder will be social housing.
Locals First Policy – this tower was one of the first to adhere to the City of Vancouver’s locals first policy, an approved motion by City Council in October 2017. Accordingly, locals were granted priority right to purchase for at least 30 days prior to foreign buyers. Reportedly, over 90% of the units sold to locals.
Westbank – the most prolific developer in Vancouver, their past local successes include the Fairmont Pacific Rim and Shanghai-La. While predominantly known for luxury buildings, they have demonstrated their social commitment through the redevelopment of Woodward’s and smaller projects. Founded and still headquartered in Vancouver, the developer has expanded to other markets including Toronto.
Past luxury buildings have been sophisticated but with a comparatively conservative exterior. The Butterfly, along with a concurrent development, The Alberni, showcase Westbank’s recent greater boldness and creativity in building form. This new vision has been supported by market conditions, and the receptiveness of Vancouver residents and City Council. Regardless of driving factors, the buildings themselves are most welcome contributions to Vancouver’s skyline.
VIDEO: Origin of the design and, after 6 years of design work, the final theme and its contribution to the fabric of Vancouver.
Bing Thom Architects (BTA) – the founder of this internationally recognized design firm, Bing Thom, studied under another local design legend, Arthur Erickson. Since starting his firm in 1982, he grew his practice to a 60 person design team that focused on community buildings. Their local designs include the gorgeous Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at UBC, Surrey City Centre Library, and Guildford Aquatic Centre. Their international successes include Kowloon’s Xiqu Centre for opera and Yuen Business School in Hong Kong. Through his professional work and community involvement he was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1995.
As one of Bing Thom’s final projects, The Butterfly proved a fitting legacy of a leading local architect given its prominence in his adopted city. Poetically, during the design of The Butterfly, BTA underwent its own transformation when Bing Thom passed away in 2016 and the practice emerged as Revery Architecture.
VIDEO: Thoughts on Bing Thom’s legacy from colleagues and Westbank founder, Ian Gillespie.
This building is located near the centre of our downtown peninsula and is only a short walk into Downtown, Yaletown, and the heart of the West End. Pacific Centre is nearby on Robson Street and the UBC downtown campus is nearby for continuing studies. For suntanning, frisbee, summer farmers markets, and a dog off leash area, Nelson Park is just over a block away.
The Butterfly is the lead development on this block since the West End Community Plan was approved in November 2013. Once the Plan was released, Developers went on a shopping spree and purchased existing buildings on under-utilized lots throughout the West End with the intent of redeveloping them to their full potential.
There are other towers destined for this block as it is located within the zone along Burrard Street that received the highest pre-approved density in the West End Community Plan, specifically 550 feet. This is considerably higher than the existing tallest tower on the block, namely, the 415 foot tall Patina at 1028 Barclay Street.
BLOG POST: West End Community Plan
You can walk to the following amenities in under 5 minutes:
- Marketplace IGA
- Nelson Park
- Scotiabank Theatre
- Le Crocodile
- Italian Kitchen
- Fairmont Hotel Vancouver
- Robson Street
- Alberni Street
- Shoppers Drug Mart
- UBC Robson Square
- St. Paul’s Hospital
You can walk to the following amenities in 5-10 minutes:
- Pacific Centre
- Vogue Theatre
- Vancouver Art Gallery
- Black + Blue restaurant
This representation is based in whole or in part on data generated by the Chilliwack & District Real Estate Board, Fraser Valley Real Estate Board or Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver which assumes no responsibility for its accuracy. Copyright 2018 by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board, and BC Northern Real Estate Board. All Rights Reserved.