Q&A With PaPa's Design Team
Hugh Cochlin and Kerri Shinkewski of Proscenium Architecture + Interiors dish about PaPa's makeover. By Michelle Pentz Glave
Q: What's special about the PaPa project?
A: (Hugh Cochlin) Really, working with Austeville Properties. Because they own the properties, the level of quality is much higher than you’d usually find.
A: (Kerri Shinkewski) Definitely the quality. Austeville is looking to get value out of what they put in. They want to know: how can we make it last? Austeville understands you can get a better design and product if you spend extra money up front. Because they have an eye for permanence and durability, the project has a green aspect to it; ultimately, you’re keeping things out of the landfill that way.
A: (Hugh) Where a developer (versus an owner) would say, we’ll do carpet, or if it was wood, we’ll do the cheapest, Austeville is putting in residential-grade hardwood floors. And that quality has to be proven. Austeville took the countertops into their office and poured red wine on them. They test everything before it goes in.
Q: What was your role?
A: (Hugh) It’s a little different because there’s another architect (W.T. Leung Architects) involved as well. We are the interior designer: everything inside, including lobbies, the amenities space and all the units.
A: (Kerri) Being an existing building, we couldn’t vary too much from the original floor plan. But we followed the basic layout from when the towers were residential apartments, not the hotel floor plans. So we’ve reverted back to the original.
Q: Why the collaboration?
A: (Hugh) We’ve done lots of work for Austeville. This is our fifth residential tower project with them. When this project came along, it was a natural move.
Q: What’s your mantra?
A: (Kerri) Our philosophy as a firm is built-in longevity, not to build anything trendy.
A: (Hugh) Timeless elegance.
Q: Tell us about the design.
A: (Hugh) The building is designed in 50s Modernist “international style,” which came out of the Bauhaus movement. The idea was a building style that could be done anywhere in the world, one that focused on form and function. A lot of the 1950s and 60s towers in Vancouver are designed that way. We decided we would respect that style, but bring West Coast flair to it.
A: (Kerri) The idea is clean, simple lines—and recta-linear as much as possible. That way tenants have the ability to bring in their own style. Especially in the lobbies, we’ve created a very neutral backdrop: the green of the courtyard brings in the outside without being obvious. It’s about the absence of extra space. But it’s not cold. The wood floors make the space wonderfully warm when you walk in. So it’s still a blank canvas, but has that richness.
Q: What inspired you?
A: (Kerri) Taking 60s Modernist, but bringing it into today. The use of wood is the starting point. It brings in warmth. Walls are white to keep things bright and give a neutral palette. White walls are popular right now and in keeping with contemporary design. The tile backsplashes and surrounds in the bathtub are white and simple, with textures here and there. We’ve used a fairly neutral gray-green in the kitchen without it being an overpowering colour.
A: (Hugh) One thing we have to mention: the location—and the views!
Q: What about special accents?
A: (Kerri) The quartz-amalgam countertops in baths and kitchens are nice because they are a white with flecks, which lends glitz and texture, plus the white brightens things up. In terms of lighting, we worked with a designer to bring in LEDs and fluorescents in an interesting way. The fluorescents are recessed into the ceiling, creating a 4’ x 4” slot of light—very clean and simple. The LED pot lights (3” diameter) add a little sparkle in ceiling, plus keep power consumption down and costs low to renters.
Q: Your favourite feature?
A: (Kerri) We’re all quite pleased about the bathroom. We’ve put in a shallow counter—that floats—with a cantilevered sink. It hangs off the counter and makes the bathroom seem quite a bit larger.
A: (Hugh) All the faucets are Grohe. Everything is very high quality and green.
Q: We were surprised by all of the eco-friendly, energy-saving appliances and features incorporated into the design. Was that intentional?
A: (Kerri) Green is becoming more standard, as it should be. Working with most developers these days, we tell them you need to be looking at what the green policies are because people are knowledgeable now, especially in Vancouver. They want everything to be green where they look, live, play.
Q: What kinds of changes did you make?
A: (Kerri) We did everything we could to ensure that no space is wasted. For example, the electrical and mechanical services have been consolidated, allowing us to recapture an old enclosed service chase in the one-bedroom plan, which now forms the kitchen pantry. And we created more open space in the kitchens.
Q: What were some of the challenges?
A: (Kerri) Because these are existing buildings, dealing with the fact that nothing is built exactly the same; working through those differences and finding out how to standardize. We tried to take the challenges and turn them into opportunities. For example, the orientation of the structural concrete in the Alberni tower allowed us to put upper cabinets over the kitchen sink in the studios.
Q: How does the design support the sense of community at PaPa?
A: (Kerri) The amenities building. It is so impressive. It sets this place apart from any other rental building. It’s practically a community centre.
A: (Hugh) Most tenants don’t use amenity rooms. This one, they will—because of its location. By putting it in a big pod with the yoga studio and gym, offices and party rooms, it’s like a community centre—not a dark room tucked into a corner. And by combining it with the laundry facility, you get the whole “I’m doing my laundry while working out” thing. The gym is large, well equipped and looks onto Alberni Street, so the view is out to the mountains. The office spaces provide opportunities for telecommuters to work here.
Q: What do you like about the PaPa project?
A: (KS) The hotel itself was quite a popular spot—this place has a varied history. It’s neat to see it transition again to a residence, and to use the existing buildings. The other thing is that it’s a rental. Typically, a developer does his version of flip and sells them off. This is something the city needs.
A: (Hugh) For me, inspiration comes from taking a sort of forgotten building, seeing what it was, and bringing it back to that; to be able to cross from its time then to its time now.
Q: What does success look like for this project?
A: (Hugh) Someone walking in and saying, “I can’t believe this is a rental!”