VANCOUVER

 

   BIng Thom is a long time family friend and visionary architect who has touched landscapes in North America as well as Asia.

  --2011 GLOBE & MAIL

PRESS CLIPPINGS


Adrienne Clarkson greeted architect Bing Thom at a banquet she hosted for Order of Canada investees during the time she was Governor General

East meets West isn't exactly a new romance. They've been involved for quite some time now.

For example, in the area of architecture and interior design, Frank Lloyd Wright's Arts and Crafts style shows his love of Japanese sensibilities many decades ago. And could Art Deco have been conceived without its flirtation with the East?

"There has been a fascination with the Orient and the two civilizations of Europe and Asia have been trying to reach each other for hundreds of years," says Bing Thom, an eminent Vancouver architect. "When they stumbled across North America hundreds of years ago, they found the Haida had been trading with Asia for hundreds of years."

Where the twain differ, he says, is that the West is linear and logical, whereas the East is more holistic and pluralistic. "The West has been human-being-centred. In the East, the individual is part of nature and it shows in the architecture. It's non-linear -- they don't think either/or. In Buddhism, for example, opposites are accepted as reality."

The most notable influence of Eastern esthetics on contemporary homes is the dissolution of the exterior-interior divide or the nature versus humans boundary. "It's because of the influence from Asia. Technology allows it, but it initially started as an Asian influence," says Thom.

In his own work, which has earned him an Order of Canada, he designs around "flow." "I start with space. The form comes later," he says. "It's a much more subtle and informal sense of the hierarchies of space. I'm much more conscious of the in-between spaces like the hallways, which are experiential spaces."

His brilliant commercial development, the Aberdeen Centre in Richmond, was formed like a piece of flowing music, he says. "It's like walking through a garden, experiencing the garden rather than sitting at a fixed point, looking at it," he says. "Flow encourages people to move and there's always a certain amount of fluidity and calmness. There are enough problems in our lives without architecture adding to them. It's a subtle inspiration towards the enjoyment of life; it's a naturalness, a calmness, a harmony, I guess you can say, without being boring. Part of the art is to stimulate and create excitement without having to shout and scream." He calls this dramatic calm "breathing in and breathing out," starting from the inside out.

In his own home, which he calls his sanctuary, he's taken minimalism and peacefulness to a higher order than most. "I have hardly any furniture and no art. For me, it's just distracting. I'm at an age where I don't want to accumulate any more than I have to. I find it much calmer when I come home."

His Kitsilano home, he says, is a series of pavilions, each looking out to a different part of the city. "It creates a different context, a different way of looking at things. The angles force you to look differently." -by Mia Stainsby  VANCOUVER SUN     6 May 2005

Vancouver-based architect Bing Thom has a vision for this city -- and it goes up

He is tired of tall buildings in the downtown core that are all the same height. He wants the city's skyline to be dome-shaped, not flat. He wants to build Vancouver's tallest structure -- a sparkling glass spike in the heart of the city.

"We need to anchor the downtown," Thom said from his Burrard Street office Thursday.

"We're not competing with Toronto anymore. We're in a global market now. We have to show everyone that we are not afraid of the future."

And the future, according to Thom, lies in taller state-of-the art buildings.

His views came before city council Thursday night, when he proposed building a 183-metre (600-foot) skyscraper behind the Georgia Hotel -- part residential, and also part of the Georgia Hotel. Council deferred a decision on the building until Aug. 14.

This is the second time in less than two months that Thom has gone to city council with his new taller vision for Vancouver.

In June, city council approved Thom's proposal to build a 154-metre (506-foot) building that would replace a parkade that now sits behind the Hotel Georgia.

Then -- because of what he claims was encouragement from his peers and his client, Hotel Georgia owner Peter Eng -- he decided to stretch the original building, like an accordion, to 183 metres.

"It will be like a crystal that disappears into the sky," Thom said.

The number of floors on the glass building would rise to 56 from 50 and the top of the building would taper, although the floor space would stay the same.

The ceilings of the residential suites would be raised, and a window-surrounded "sky lobby" would allow the public to access a garden that Thom proposes for the roof of the Hotel Georgia. The top half would be residential, and the bottom would be part of the hotel.

But according to Michael Gordon, Vancouver's senior central area planner, the 506-foot building that city council approved in the first place is tall enough.

He said he doesn't see how the additional height is essential to improve the skyline.

"It's an attractive building, but it's an attractive building at 506 feet as well. And the mountains are attractive too. We can have both."

The problem with the building, Gordon says -- and the major reason city planners oppose it -- is that it will block the view of the mountains from the downtown core.

In 1990, Vancouver city council approved guidelines meant to protect the public's view of the North Shore mountains from a variety of locations around town.

The guidelines also established view corridors -- so-called "view cones" -- in the downtown with height limits to protect public views of the North Shore mountain backdrop.

Thom's proposal complies with all of those 'view cones' except one -- the view cone from Cambie and 12th Avenue.

According to Thom, only part of the mountains would be blocked for about 22 seconds for someone driving down Cambie, past 12th Avenue toward the city centre.

It's a hangup he sees bordering on the ridiculous.

"I think it's a nonsense issue," he said, referring to the cone infringement. "I think someone's gone bonkers."

But Gordon says there have to be limits drawn somewhere, in order to prevent every builder from following suit.

"Our worry is that if we start to say okay [to Thom's proposal], then somebody else could say 'Well, it's only one,' too," said Gordon.

Currently the height limit for most downtown buildings is 137 metres (450 feet), and most of the city's tallest buildings, including the Board of Trade building and the Hotel Vancouver are within that height. The One Wall Building is the exception. Standing at 152 metres (500 feet), it is the tallest building in Vancouver.

But a recent decision by city council identified five locations in the downtown area that can break the 137-metre barrier, and Thom is the first architect to take advantage of that provision.

"I'm the first kid off the block but I also have the most important site because it's the only one in the core," Thom said.

And although Thom admits it would be nice to have his name on Vancouver's tallest building, he says the bragging rights have nothing to do with his plans.

"This isn't an ego trip." he said. "It isn't. It's about the city."

The biggest problem Thom sees with the city is its flat skyline, which he says is the result of the 137-metre height limit that has existed far too long.

He also wants to preserve the downtown core by making it bigger, better and more spectacular -- to keep up with other world-class cities.

"Mother Nature gave us a great setting, but only we can make it a great city," Thom said.

Whatever the opinion of city council, Thom is confident that if it's left up to the public to decide the height of his building, people would go with his new proposal.

"I have faith in common sense," he said. "And this just makes common sense."   -    Hayley Mick     Vancouver Sun     3 August 2002

Developers of a planned spectacular glass skyscraper for the heart of downtown Vancouver want to take the tower 183 metres in the air, making it the highest structure in the city.

Bing Thom, architect for the building directly north of the historic Hotel Georgia, went before the city's planning and environment committee yesterday to pitch for the extra height.

"This is the one site in the downtown that is perfect for a 600-foot building," he said.

Developer Allied Holdings of Vancouver already has approval for a 155-metre tower featuring a five star hotel, 30 serviced apartments and 150 luxury condominiums.

Thom said "we are not seeking any extra density. The added height will give us greater ceiling heights in the residential units. More importantly, it will allow us to create a public park on the roof of the Hotel Georgia affording views across the heart of the city," he said.

It will be the equivalent of adding 10 more storeys, said Thom. "It will be the same building but just stretched."

If the committee approves then a public hearing would be the next step, which Thom welcomes.

The city previously gave Allied unanimous approval to break through the existing 137-metre height restriction. That would have just eclipsed the imaginative 150-metre "flat iron-style" Shaw Tower now under construction in Coal Harbour.

The  Allied development co-ordinator, has said the building will give the city's heart the highly visual architectural icon it has long sought.

The as-yet unnamed tower, to be marketed by Rennie Marketing Systems, would be a major triumph for Thom.

He has long had the vision of developing, and has doggedly pursued, a signature building in the heart of the city for more than 20 years.      - Ashley Ford    The Province    3 August 2002

Bing Thom says the 560-foot-tall "crystal" tower he's designed for Peter Eng to build beside his Hotel Georgia would emblemize Vancouver's recent dramatic development. Such change is something architect Thom -- who was the only person of Chinese descent in Magee Secondary's 1960 graduating class -- would understand more than many.   - Malcolm Parry    Vancouver Sun     16 August 2002

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Bing Thom has had a distinguished career which includes being awarded the Order of Canada for his contribution to architecture.   He headed the Arthur Erickson partnership in Singapore in the 1970's.    

Few have as impressive a portfolio of international works as Bing Thom.  He also has had a long association with public nonprofit organizations and associations. From 1988 to 1992, Mr. Thom served as Chairman on the Planning and Building Committee for the new $122 million Vancouver Public Library. Currently he is part of the Building Committee for the new Cancer Research Center at the Vancouver General Hospital. 

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Her Excellency certainly picked a perfect locale for architect and Order of Canada investee Bing Thom, whom she met when mutual-friend Arthur Erickson brought the Shanghai Ballet to Canada three decades ago. The two met again in 1992 in Seville, where Thom had designed the Canadian pavilion for that Spanish city's world fair. Five years later, she was reportedly knocked out by the opening of the University of B.C.'s Thom-designed Chan Centre to make it the locale for the first Order of Canada investiture to be held outside Ottawa.   -  by Malcolm Parry photo & byline      Vancouver Sun        3 September 2002

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We are proud to have been mentored and associated professionally with Bing Thom.   His wife Bonnie and her late mother, Auntie Tianna were a part of my childhood.  -- 太太

 

 


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