Water Tower


Project Description

The ongoing debate to relocate the currently, 40-year old Vancouver Aquatic Centre, located at Vancouver West-End, presents the opportunity to develop a unique sustainable solution. The existing site was to be redeveloped into high density residential to match the surrounding skyline.

The newly proposed site, a small piece of piece of land, located on the right hand side entry of the Grandville Bridge, presents the perfect location for this unique buiding. The limited sized of the property, demands a new design approach requiring the building to be configured in vertically stacked arrangement, while the design challenge for an all timber structure tower, without the need for a conventional concrete and steel structure redefines sustainability in a new way.


Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

School of Architecture

Architectural Design, Art & Theory

Building Design


Vancouver, Canada

Project Date

1 April 2016

Innovative Solution

The building will surpass all current tall timber structures reaching a staggering height of 68 meters. The structure adheres to a strict 2.8 meter (9.2ft) grid and is designed to use only glulam timber beams and columns combined with steel connections and cables and for bracing. The use of steel cables eliminates the need for a conventional concrete core.

The structural grid allows for maximum versatility in the design, with flexible placement of swimming pools while offering sufficient structural support. Structural load and wind simulations were used in the design process while the local fire rating code dictated minimum cross-section of structural timber elements.

By reducing the need for closed off spaces throughout the building, the building offers a unique open-air environment allowing visitors to interact between different areas, even floors. To accomplish this, conventional walls are replaced with steel nets functioning as barriers for upper levels. Elevators and stairways are enclosed fire-rated glass to further compliment the building transparency.


Modular Design

Modular components are used to fill in the building and together with the wet-compartments create the inner life of the aquatic centre. These components are based on the same structural grid and can be placed as required. Modular components include, large promenade stairways, egress stairs, elevators, deck/floor elements to be used as walkways and/or seating and are designed to allow for any required bracing using steel cables.

All water related functions are located in stainless steel wet-compartments. This will include all swimming pools, saunas, steam rooms, and change rooms. Theses wet-compartments are placed and suspended throughout the entire building, creating the unique design, contrast and structure of the building as well as an absolutely paralleled experience for its visitors. Typical swimming pool wet-compartments are entirely self supporting, have a height of 2 grid units (5,6m) with the mechanical equipment below and pool above.


As with any timber structure, the load-bearing capacity of wood as well as strict fire rating requirements was heavily influential to the overall design process. The reduced load bearing capacity of wood in contrast with steel or concrete, required a higher column density, while the minimum 2 hr. fire rating meant all timber elements would need to be adequately oversized. This in combination with building sprinklers and advanced fire alarm systems ensures maximum building safety. Further, the aquatic centre’s constant inside building temperature and humidity is hugely advantageous when it comes to timber structures, preventing unwanted shrinking and swelling of timber elements.


  • Load Bearing Capacity
  • Fire Rating
  • Moisture

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Ben-Yakov is a Kelowna-based studio focused on modern minimalist design, solutions and strategies. From our inception in 2021, we have delivered exceptional quality and service to our clients.

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