The Passages offers a radical new model for the urbanisation of North America’s suburbs. This mixed-use scheme at the heart of the emerging City of Surrey in British Columbia re-imagines the development model of towers emerging from private podium as a permeable pedestrian quarter of diverse building types and uses. Five public passages lead to a civic square at the scheme’s heart: a place of movement and gathering for both new residents and the project’s wider Surrey constituency.
An Open City Quarter
Working to produce a more inclusive, socially diverse and economically resilient paradigm shift in Vancouver’s development pattern, this proposal for The Passages on Whalley Boulevard is for an open city block, with free-flowing public space at its heart: a common ground given to a wide range of community, commercial and recreational uses. The scheme offers an exceptional urban condition by focusing on permeability and public space accessible to all via a series of passages. These lead to an open piazza at its centre, integrating high density housing with informal, meandering lanes, bringing movement through the site. Ground floor spaces include a community hall, creche, commercial spaces and co-workspaces at the base of each tower.
Creating a New Urban Context
The Passages’ six polygonal plan buildings have no front or back; all façades are on display and active, serving as extensions of the public realm. There are three building typologies proposed across the site: Flatiron Towers, Point Blocks and a timber-framed, mixed-use courtyard Mansion Block; a new typology to the Vancouver housing market. Together they offer a variety of form and scale, façade and texture, all contributing to the landscaped passages at grade.
Echoing the Landscape of British Colombia
The scheme’s low-rise buildings share the granite material palette of the public realm to form a monolithic urban canvas and public stage for the 21,31 and 39 storey towers. In contrast, the three towers’ faceted, directional plan forms and ‘shingled’ iridescent aluminium cladding have a roughness that echoes at a super-scale the texture of British Columbian coastal forests. This organic quality is amplified by the towers’ green, blue and black tones. Deeply recessed continuous loggias offer every apartment a protective layer: shelter from the near-continuous rain, sun-shading, wind-protection and privacy, while 2.7m high ceilings optimise daylight. A large outcropping of granite provides a focal point in the Central Piazza, a natural surface for climbing, sitting, or adventurous play.
The Passages gained consent from the City of Surrey in December 2019, with detailed design progressing.