First Award | Hospitality (Built)

Firm Name: Dialog
Participant  Name: Jennifer Zatser

The café is located in The Marine Building, constructed in 1929, a protected heritage site listed on the Vancouver Heritage Registry as an ‘A’ designation. It is rare in Vancouver to be afforded such an opportunity to work with a building as rich in character as the Marine Building.

Our approach with every location is to rely on the existing conditions and local community to inform the design concepts. We try to inhabit a location as sensitively as possible with a strong emphasis on respecting and reflecting the character of the neighbourhood and on developing a strong sense of community.
While the base building offered an inventory of design opportunities given the Art Deco period architecture, very little of this was actually evident in the existing space. As a result, nearly every non-structural element was removed to reveal the concrete and steel shell space. The base building was undergoing renovations concurrent to ours and additional area was absorbed with demising walls and shafts upgraded to meet current code requirements. A 400 sq ft (37 sq m) steel structure mezzanine was inserted into the existing 20 foot (6m) high volume to increase the total area to 2,360 sq ft (219 sq m) and provide a unique experience of this space with new views to the street. This proved to be a considerable challenge given the constraints of the 83-year-old structure.  A series of new braces were concealed, leaving only one visible structural support for the new ‘floating’ mezzanine space. Part of the existing ceiling featured a decorative plaster motif that was retained above the new folded-steel stair. New LED lighting was installed throughout to meet stringent energy policies and to enhance the Art Deco character and details.

Authenticity is one of our core design tenets. At the Marine Building we were concerned that any attempt at replicating period architecture would appear artificial. It was important to the team that the space be designed as a modern day café while still acknowledging the strong period influences. Some of these details are evident in the use of hexagonal floor tiles with contrasting motif inlays, the wood veneer sunburst patterned wall panels, the profiled relief ceiling panels, and the oversize/five foot diameter gold leafed dome lights.

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