The Building: Vancouver’s Alberni Tower ushers in a new wave of high-rise buildings
In Vancouver’s sea of steel skyscrapers and boxes, Alberni leans toward outdoor grandeur
Vancouver’s soaring skyline tells the story of Canada’s race to cover the real estate market with condominiums — and at least five new high-rise buildings are expected to appear in Metro Vancouver by 2027. Last June, a meandering newcomer appeared, proving that high density and high design can, In fact, they get mixed up. The Alberni Building is a gravity-defying 43-storey building with 181 apartments, with studio prices starting at $1.2 million. When the units went on sale in 2017, it quickly became the most valuable pre-sale residential project in Canadian history.
Alberni is the first high-rise residential project in North America by Japanese architecture firm Kengo Kuma & Associates, and its next project in the United States is the plant-covered Park Habitat building in Silicon Valley, with a lush vertical garden (or “green lung”) in the atrium. “The tower itself is not particularly captivating,” says Balazs Bognar, partner at Kengo Kuma, which has been tapped by Westbank (the Alberni developer) for its nature-friendly ethos. “Our focus is on how it interacts with the city.”
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Alberni is not your average glass rectangle. The tower’s facade features a stippled effect made from a combination of some glass, anodized aluminum “peels” and more aluminum that has been treated to a wood-like finish. The tower’s defining feature—its curvature—tends to preserve its neighbors’ views of the North Shore mountains and Stanley Park. The majority of the units have larger balconies, so residents can also enjoy the stunning views.
There is a lot of greenery that can be seen at ground level as well. The building’s entrance is anchored by two intersecting domes flanking nearby Alberni Street, sometimes called “Vancouver’s Rodeo Road.” Beneath the domes is a meticulously maintained moss garden, surrounded by stands of bamboo trees, which grow in rural Oregon and are shipped to downtown Van..
The Alberni’s outdoor amphitheater is located in a central area, complete with a Kengo-designed Fazioli piano — an amenity for residents — and a main stage that already hosts outside talent, such as Vancouver’s Goh Ballet. For those interested in some fine dining after the performance, Japanese restaurant Aburi Hana will debut at the base of the building this month. In 2022, its Toronto location received a Michelin star.