Sunset Community Centre

Vancouver, Canada
Bing Thom Architects

A curving roof structure gives character to a community center.

Named for the South Vancouver residents who fought in World War II, the original Sunset Memorial Community Centre opened in 1950. Two years prior, legendary crooner Bing Crosby performed at the site during a groundbreaking and fundraising ceremony. Over the years, the center started to show its age. Furthermore, because it was located two blocks away from a major street, it lacked visibility and accessibility.

Sunset Community Centre
Photo © Nic Lehoux
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Bing Thom Architects
Photo courtesy Bing Thom Architects
Bing Thom Architects team

To better serve the rapidly expanding community of Vancouver—with its high percentage of recent immigrants, young children, and young families—the city decided to build a new, larger center along Main Street. The facility was to include space for children and programs for immigrants and non-English speakers. Another man named Bing—Vancouver-based architect Bing Thom—and his firm were tapped to design the building.

The new, 30,000-square-foot facility was constructed on a six-block parcel adjacent to the 10-acre Sunset Nursery, which features greenhouses and planting beds. The building’s design draws upon the geometries of the city grid and the history of the site as a working farm, as well as the cultural diversity of South Vancouver.

The center integrates community and landscape together in a striking composition, with a plan that deploys rooms around an internal spine. The swooping roof structure, the most dramatic element of the building, has five free-form sections. Each section is unique in form and scale, and defines one of the buildings’ five core components: the central gymnasium, the multi-purpose space for community gatherings, the weight lifting and aerobic room, the arts and crafts area, and the administration offices.

Each of the building’s 46 structural concrete panels is uniquely shaped. Exterior panels are insulated, and remain exposed inside and out. The glazed curtain wall unifies the exterior with a horizontal pattern. The front elevation’s fritted-glass facade reads as a random checkerboard grid, alternating whimsically between opaque and translucent.

Formal name of project: Sunset Community Centre

Location: Vancouver, Canada

Gross square footage: 30,000 sq. ft.

Total construction cost: $10.5 million

Completion Date: May 2008

Owner:Vancouver Park Board

Bing Thom Architects
1430 Burrard Street
Vancouver British Columbia, Canada
V6Z 2A3
P: 604 682 1881
F: 604 688 1343

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