VanDusen Botanical Gardens Visitor Centre

Structural Designer

Paul Fast/Fast + Epp

Client Name

The City of Vancouver, Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, VanDusen Botanical Garden Association

Images: © Nic Lehoux


Constructed to revitalise public interest in gardens, this building has a free-form curvaceous roof as a metaphor for an orchid, flowing seamlessly from a central oculus to the petal tips cantilevering into the landscape. The geometrical challenge of constructing such a sinuous roof was realised by designing and fabricating 71 atypical timber panels of a transportable size, using a number of 30 software programs.

By dissecting the roof into simpler trapezoidal elements, standard timber section sizes could be used, with plywood providing the skin and doubly curved glulam's used for the edge beams. Completely prefabricated, the panels include insulation, services and acoustic liner. This high degree of pre-fabrication, tied with a 'one size fits all' approach to the panel to column connections, minimised exposure to weather and allowed an ambitious programme to be met.

Judge's comment:

"This is wood innovation at the heart of a stunning piece of structure and architecture. Engineering ingenuity bridges the gap between its flowing form and the simple elements it is composed of."

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