The Butterfly Fazioli Joins The Fight For Beauty

In the modern world of jet planes, high speed internet, rancorous politics, weaponry and wars, it seems that the allowance in people’s lives for beauty, music and art becomes smaller and smaller. Cities are overrun with urban blight, poverty, and decay.

Outside the Fairmont Pacific Rim, a luxury Vancouver hotel, there is a magenta, graffiti encased pavilion housing a new pop-up art gallery entitled Fight For Beauty.

This exhibition is based on a book (of the same name) written by Ian Gillespie.

Gillespie is primarily a property developer, his company, Westbank, is responsible for some of Canada’s most design-orientated buildings. He is keen to ensure all his projects have the highest artistic credentials, creating “a positive impact on how people live today”.

Westbank Developers, a unique Canadian firm that prides itself on its civic and community- oriented ethics, decided to do something about Vancouver.  They purchased downtown Oakridge Centre and have planned a massive redevelopment already started and is due to complete in 2025.  (See our blog on Kengo Kuma Fazioli, part of this project).

It includes:

Twenty condo towers for new 48-acre Southgate neighborhood at Edmunds Station. Approximately 6,000 people will live in 2,600 residential units within 10 towers and four mid-rise buildings, with the mid-rise buildings dedicated to 290 units of rental housing and 290 units of social housing.

A new mega mall to open in 2019 at The Amazing Brentwood. The floor area of retail at the new multi-story shopping center will almost double from the existing 574,000 sq. ft. to about one million sq. ft., with an east-west galleria spine running from the SkyTrain station to the development’s western edge.

New office space, with large, open floor plans geared for the tech and creative industries, for 3,000 employees will be located in the lower floors of the towers near the SkyTrain station.

As part of the redevelopment’s community benefits, the developer will build a new 100,000 sq. ft. community center at the northwest corner of the site. It will include community spaces, seniors center, a daycare facility, and the new second largest branch of the Vancouver Public Library.

A 9-acre public rooftop park on Oakridge Centre will also serve as a music venue accommodating 3,000, and since there are smaller performance areas scattered across the shopping center, the possibility of holding music festivals is being considered.

Space for the Goh Ballet in its new Oakridge Centre location will triple the size of its academy. The project also promises to offer the largest public art program in the city’s history.

 Each new Westbank residential tower is a work of art in itself. The vast amount of care Westbank took in choosing architects, designers, engineers and craftsmen is staggering.

The Butterfly - Westbank’s Residential Tower, Part Of The Project

The concept of transformation is one of the ideas that informed the design of The Butterfly building destined for 969 Burrard St. The 57-story tower will be constructed in a parking lot behind the First Baptist Church, and will contain 331 market condominium units.

Bing Thom Architects was hired for the project, but Mr. Thom died in 2016 and his year associate, Venelin Kokalov, became the design principal. The new name for the firm is Revery Architecture and they continue to work on Westbank’s Butterfly building. Bing Thom was able to contribute his renowned ideas and inspiration to the project before his death.

Kokalov has said their goal is to create a building to symbolize elegance, grace and beauty. The butterfly is a symbol of this. Also butterflies are in constant change. When asked how this slender tower resembled a butterfly, Kokalov replied:

We created these sky gardens – you arrive into these gardens and you are always surprised… in the morning you get this fresh air, sometimes it’s rainy, sometimes it’s a sunny day. The trees change through the year. You see the sky, moving clouds – all these elements of nature are in constant change, the same way as the butterfly.”

The name of The Butterfly refers more to the transformational qualities of butterflies, than the exact look of the building.

When you look at it from above, it has that butterfly shape.
When you look at it from above, it has that butterfly shape.

The beginning designs of the building took into consideration the nearby First Baptist Church, and the shapes were oriented by the church’s the pipe organ with cut outs for a different approach.

In keeping with Westbank’s desire to merge city living with the beautiful natural resources of Vancouver, gardens are planned on every floor. The concept of the building is to break the typologies of the city, create new experiences. Normally, living in a high-rise tower, the elevator lets you off in a dark hall and you enter your apartment. In this case, you arrive at your floor, leave the elevator and you’re in the fresh air with trees and flowers around you. Then you enter into your apartment.

Seating area outside suite entrance. Credit:SkyscraperPage Forum Vancouver
Seating area outside suite entrance. Credit:SkyscraperPage Forum Vancouver

These spaces called sky gardens, breezeways of a sort, create community interaction because working people sometimes don’t take time to socialize.  Kokalov adds:

We don’t want to clone the (existing) towers. In Vancouver, all the towers are cloned, they’re the same. You’re not surprised. It’s super boring. In our way, we tried to reinvent the tower to bring this new experience.”

The façade of the Butterfly is pre-cast concrete – white, curved shapes that look like clouds, and because of a special glazing, will also reflect the clouds. In some light, the building will blend with the sky.  They like to say that residents are living in the sky with earthly gardens.

The interiors have expanded unit spaces by omitting drywall and using glass walls. This is also something that is unique to The Butterfly. The 50-metre swimming pool will be the largest in a residential tower and sits under the iconic sculpted vaulted ceiling that echoes the building’s façade.

The Butterfly Piano - Fazioli’s Commissioned Grand Piano

Westbank Developers and Paolo Fazioli have a long-standing relationship, combining their creative talents to build the artful and beautiful. Westbank commissions Fazioli to do one-of-a-kind design pianos for each of their most unique buildings, whether it is a luxury hotel, or a state of the art residential tower. Even for smaller events, Westbank has rented a Fazioli from a local dealer because the pianos are considered the best instruments money can buy.

The Fazioli Butterfly Piano at the “Fight for Beauty” exhibition. Photo: Ema Peter
The Fazioli Butterfly Piano at the “Fight for Beauty” exhibition. Photo: Ema Peter

One of the key exhibits that can be seen in the Fight for Beauty pavilion is a piano. It is a very special piano – a Fazioli. In terms of quality, Fazioli is considered the top piano-maker in the world. In Sacile, an hour outside Venice, exquisite hand-made instruments are created and shipped worldwide. The Westbank-Fazioli connection illustrates Gillespie’s philosophy of artistic collaboration.

Thom died in 2016, and his design team were tasked with creating a piano to compliment the new building. This is the first piece of work the team produced that didn’t have Thom’s input, and as such is considered a tribute to their famous mentor.

The Butterfly Piano’s design matches the vivacious curves and flow of the Butterfly building. However, the piano’s intricate styling was also heavily inspired by Alexander McQueen’s iconic 2003 Shipwreck dress, interestingly enough!

Alexander McQueen’s 2003 Shipwreck dress
Alexander McQueen’s 2003 Shipwreck dress

The piano itself is a Model F212 (7ft) Fazioli. This is the perfect sized instrument for smaller venues such as hotel lobbies, piano bars, etc.

The stunning decorative casework is carved from wood, however metal is used to reinforce the legs which must take the full weight of the instrument – nearly 400kg. Virtually all processes are done by hand including the final sanding and polishing. This is typical of Fazioli construction but even more creatively rendered in this sublime piano case.

Luxury designer pianos have reached epic sales numbers in the 21st Century. With the renaissance in new futuristic shapes, improved and unusual materials like metals and acrylic, graphic design skins of paintings and photos, fine art, mother of pearl, rare woods, marquetry and LED lighting, the sky seems to be the limit in where you can go with piano décor. 

Visit Euro Pianos Naples and take a look at the most beautiful and best pianos on the planet. You won’t be sorry. You’ll float like a butterfly.