Connect spoke to Mark Ostry of Acton Ostry Architects (responsible for Townline’s 999 Seymour in downtown Vancouver) to get his insight s on designing successful urban communities.
Beyond creating a genuine sense of place, Acton Ostry’s process is pragmatic. “We consider the things that affect the senses of the people living there: orientation, views, privacy—it all has to do with comfort,” says Mark Ostry. There will be features to maximize (views and privacy, for example) and other things to minimize (street noise and glare). “A lot of this can be accomplished by creating buffers. At 999 Seymour, the deep, generous balconies act as privacy buffers against the busy street below.” The moveable screens let you open up when you want to let the light in—or close up tight and tuck yourself away from the world.
Successful urban design considers the people who live in the building as well as the people who don’t. The public will interact with the exterior at ground level, passing by on the street, standing out front to wait for a bus—or maybe stepping inside to get coffee from a café. Just as important are the neighbours who might only have a visual connection—for example, people who live or work on the upper floors of nearby structures. “For them, and for the city as a whole, we want to enhance the basic design principles: colour, proportion, rhythm,” explains Ostry. “We make it beautiful, so it becomes not something that blocks the view, but something that is the view. With 999 Seymour, moveable screens separate the outdoor living space from the interior, creating a dynamic wall that’s always changing, never static. It becomes fascinating, something to watch, like kinetic art, contributing a visual aesthetic for the entire city.”
Ideally, urban communities should have intelligent outdoor living spaces—rooms you can actually use. “Our generous balconies and moveable screens at 999 Seymour are a good model for living in the sky,” says Ostry. “Outdoor living is so important in Vancouver, and most condos don’t offer such a functional, generous balcony space.”
Effective mixed-use spaces should have symbiotic functions, occupants that complement each other and keep a building animated around the clock. Ostry thinks it makes sense to combine residential with office and retail. “In that way, the building is alive 24/7. It’s safer and more sustainable because it uses heat and other resources more effectively. There’s never a period where the building sits empty.”
At 999 Seymour, all elements of a vibrant urban community have been considered, adding aesthetic interest to Vancouver’s downtown core.