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Courtesy of Perkins+Will


The new Visitor Centre at the entrance to the Garden provides glimpses of the beautiful spaces within and transforms it into a gateway that inspires visitors and passersby to explore the grounds beyond. Guided by the Garden’s mandate and spirit of conservation, our design delicately balances architecture and landscape, integrating natural and human systems in meaningful ways to support biodiversity and ecological balance within the site. Both LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge Petal certified, its distinct organic roof form and extensive green building strategies launch the Visitor Centre as more than a landmark in the city of Vancouver, but an international icon of sustainability. [1]

Perkins&Will‘s VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre in Vancouver, BC is designed to meet the Living Building Challenge, the most rigorous set of requirements of sustainability. Formally and functionally, it encompasses the goals of environmentally and socially conscious design. The building is an undulating landscape of interior and exterior spaces rising from ground to roof level and providing a vast surface area on which vegetation could grow, thus reoccupying the land on which the building sits with the landscape. The building also features numerous passive and active systems that reuse the site’s renewable resources and the building’s own waste. (…)

The form of the Visitor Centre finds a balance between architecture and landscape – composed of “undulating green roof ‘petals’ that float above rammed earth and concrete walls”, inspired by a native orchid.  The roof and ground plane are connected by ramps that promote vegetation – a self-made green roof.  The building functions as a community oriented center for the Botanical Garden; it has a cafe, library, volunteer facilities, garden shop, offices, and classroom space for meetings, workshops, lectures and private functions.

In order to achieve recognition for the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge, Perkins&Will had to use natural and mechanical systems that could collaborate to create a building with a low impact on the environment that includes the its immediate site and the infrastructure to which it is connected.  This means that all systems were taken into account when designing this facility.

The Visitor Centre uses on-site, renewable sources, such as geothermal boreholes, solar photovoltaics and solar hot water tubes, in order to achieve net-zero energy on an annual basis.  The building is primarily constructed out of wood with the roof constructed out of a glulam post-and-beam construction.  Rainwater is collected, filtered and used as greywater for the building.  The blackwater is treated by “an on-site bioreactor and released into a new feature percolation field and garden”. [2]


[1]      Silva, Valeria. “VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre / PERKINS&WILL.” ArchDaily. ArchDaily, February 10, 2021. https://www.archdaily.com/956788/vandusen-botanical-garden-visitor-centre-perkins-and-will.


[2]      Vinnitskaya, Irina. “VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre / PERKINS+WILL.” ArchDaily. ArchDaily, March 20, 2012. https://www.archdaily.com/215855/vandusen-botanical-garden-visitor-centre-perkinswill.


Additional information:

“Explore VanDusen Botanical Garden.” VanDusen Botanical Garden | City of Vancouver. Accessed July 29, 2021. https://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/vandusen-botanical-garden.aspx.


Keegan, Edward. “VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre.” Architect, March 2, 2012. https://www.architectmagazine.com/design/buildings/vandusen-botanical-garden-visitor-centre_o.


“VanDusen Botanical Garden Centre.” The VanDusen Botanical garden visitor centre. Accessed July 29, 2021. https://www.cagbc.org/Archives/EN/CaGBC_Green_Building_Case_Studies/VanDusen_Botanical_Garden_Visitor_Centre.aspx.


VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre as Seen at the Vancouver Art Gallery. YouTube, 2011. https://youtu.be/cKDivUH6buI.


“VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre Named Most Sustainable Building of the Year by World ARCHITECTURE NEWS.” Canadian Architect, October 28, 2014. https://www.canadianarchitect.com/vandusen-botanical-garden-visitor-centre-named-most-sustainable-building-of-the-year-by-world/?er=NA.


“VANDUSEN Botanical Garden Visitor Centre.” International Living Future Institute, December 4, 2018. https://living-future.org/biophilic/case-studies/vandusen-botanical-garden-visitor-centre-2/.


“VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre.” International Living Future Institute, December 5, 2016. https://living-future.org/lbc/case-studies/vandusen-botanical-garden-visitor-centre/.


“VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre: Perkins&Will.” Archello. Accessed July 29, 2021. https://archello.com/project/vandusen-botanical-garden-visitor-centre.


“VanDusen Botanical Garden.” Perkins+Will, n.d. https://perkinswill.com/project/vandusen-botanical-garden-visitor-centre/.


“VanDusen Botanical Gardens Visitor Centre: Wood Design: Structurecraft.” StructureCraft Builders. Accessed July 29, 2021. https://structurecraft.com/projects/vandusen-botanical-gardens-visitor-centre.


Project Title: VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre
Artists:  Perkins&Will
Year: 2011

Place: Vancouver, British Columbia

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