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Henriquez Partners Architects

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Even in Wealthy Cities, Architects Must Work for Social Justice in Every Way Possible

09:30 - 29 December, 2017
Woodward's Redevelopment. Image © Bob Matheson
Woodward's Redevelopment. Image © Bob Matheson

The "about" section of Vancouver-based studio Henriquez Partners Architects' website boldly states: "We believe that architecture should be a poetic expression of social justice." While empowering communities through socially conscious design is hardly a new concept, the term "public-interest architecture" tends to call to mind images of low-budget constructions. Rarely is it employed to describe the large, mixed-use projects that have come to characterize downtown Vancouver and Gregory Henriquez's firm.

However, experimenting with different models of social regeneration through architecture is the driving principle of the studio's work. Throughout the years, Henriquez has explored concepts such as affordable ownership and dignifying design for the city's disenfranchised communities. In partnership with local real-estate development and culture company Westbank, he has built a number of projects that seek to equalize living conditions for all in one of the world's most affluent and progressive societies. Here, in an exclusive interview with ArchDaily, Henriquez describes his firm's ethos, his stance on issues such as homelessness, affordable housing, and gentrification, and the lessons he's learned in over 30 years of heading Henriquez Partners Architects.

Inclusivity as Architectural Program: A Reflection on Vancouver's Woodward’s Redevelopment Five Years On

01:00 - 22 December, 2014
Inclusivity as Architectural Program: A Reflection on Vancouver's Woodward’s Redevelopment Five Years On, The need for "body heat" to reactivate the abandoned site led to a high density, and ultimately to the development's 43 and 32 storey towers. Image © Bob Matheson
The need for "body heat" to reactivate the abandoned site led to a high density, and ultimately to the development's 43 and 32 storey towers. Image © Bob Matheson

Officially opened in 2010, the Woodward’s Redevelopment project designed by Vancouver based Henriquez Partners Architects and situated in the city’s Downtown Eastside (DTES), was a contentious proposal from the time of its inception, and has continued to be so in the almost five years since its completion. Yet as the large-scale mixed-use complex, and its role in the community, nears the first of many milestone anniversaries, it offers us a chance for critical reflection and allows for perceptions and understandings to be gathered and assessed.

What has made Woodward’s an interesting case study, however, is the project’s attempt to act as a model for responsible development with respect to the regeneration of its surrounding urban and community context. Yet there has also been much criticism, with fears over rapid gentrification and claims that it has displaced some of the community’s most at-risk residents. For managing partner Gregory Henriquez, however, it was seen as an opportunity to introduce a place of inclusivity into the neighbourhood and as a chance to “share a portion of the wealth created in real estate development to support the greater good.”

© Bob Matheson The umbilical-cord-like "rebirth stair" is a defining feature of the development's public space. Image © Bob Matheson © Paul Worchal © Bob Matheson + 8

Rebirth of The York Theatre / Henriquez Partners Architects

01:00 - 3 March, 2014
Rebirth of The York Theatre / Henriquez Partners Architects, © Ed White
© Ed White

© Ed White © Ed White © Ed White © Ed White + 15