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Octopuses and Art Deco

The Marine building is a next-generation office building juxtaposing vintage flare and contemporary elegance in the heart of downtown Vancouver.

Vancouver, BC

Vintage flare, contemporary elegance

The McCarter and Nairne designed Marine Building offers a glamorous backdrop to the downtown Vancouver cityscape. This architectural treasure forms part of Vancouver’s proud history and is the city’s most significant example of Art Deco architecture, with nothing else like it on the West Coast.

Simplification, abstraction, amplification

The design approach is to blend the cool, vintage vibe created in the DIALOG-design JJ Bean Marine—a standout blend of modern and heritage retail design embedded within the Marine Building—throughout the rest of the tower. The design draws heavily on simplification, abstraction and amplification through the thoughtful use of materiality, detailing and the artful translation of 2D patterns into 3D forms. Taking a kindred approach through the regeneration of the rest of the building provides an ideal way to tell the evolutionary tale of one of Vancouver's oldest buildings in a way that's both inspired by history and generative of an edgy, emergent design experience.

Sea flora, mermen, and octopuses

Together with branding specialists Glasfurd Walker, DIALOG recreates layers of signage, wayfinding and artistic touches offering a whimsical play on the dazzling layers of sea flora, mermen and octopuses displayed within the Marine Building. A standout piece is the larger-than-life backlit wall displaying part of an octopus which is abstracted to give it a feeling of a modern aesthetic. Custom wood pyramidal portals in the main level reference Mayan iconography and architecture. Flashes of gold make up the branding throughout the tower and are present at most of touch points.

Realizing design potential

The facade and entrance to the Marine building is unparalleled in Vancouver, with the lobby an undeniable Art Deco masterpiece. Despite the inventory of design opportunities in the building’s richly articulated facade and ground floor, little of this vintage value remained in the language of the upper levels - leaving tremendous untapped potential. Inside the massive brass-door elevators the walls are inlaid with 12 varieties of local hardwood, with one of those also in the lobby flooring with Art Deco patterning. The design re-purposes all original marble dividers by pairing these beautifully made slabs with Espresso maple custom doors. The lobby spaces are a clean, white canvas with four custom backlit brass panels, each one revealing a different story from the past.

Project facts

Collaborators: Glasfurd Walker
Completed: 2014