Giant Telus Garden media screen meant to ‘add some vibrancy’

Plans for a giant media screen that would be lowered each night at dusk for several hours on the side of the Telus Garden office building will be presented at an open house Wednesday.

Henriquez Partners Architects has applied on behalf of Westbank Corp. and Telus for an amendment to the city’s sign bylaw to allow for the screen.

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Measuring 7.5 by 11 metres, if approved it would appear on the west facade of the building at 520 West Georgia St., facing Seymour Street, between the 16th and 18th floors where the so-called “sky garden” protrudes from the building. The screen would be retractable and drop down in the evening hours from dusk to 11 p.m. daily, according to the proposal, which notes it will use rear projection technology that’s only viewable in low-light conditions and it “will showcase video art and community programming and announcements, with limited brand recognition for businesses at Telus Garden.”

The media screen has always been part of the general plans for the Telus Garden development with the understanding that its approval required an amendment to the sign bylaw.

“The screen drops from the inside of the glass on the 18th floor,” explained Rhiannon Mabberley, Westbank’s development manager for Telus Garden.

A view-line study was completed, according to Mabberley, who said there are no residential towers with a sightline directly into Telus Garden at the 16th floor. The tower directly across is Scotia Tower.

“Obviously, it’s also an office building and they have the biggest direct sightline into the tower, if you will, at the 16th level and there’s no residential directly facing that building,” she said. “It’s meant to be for the benefit of pedestrians to really add some vibrancy to the skyline. If you think of Vancouver on a wet Wednesday night and you’re walking home in the middle of winter, it’s pretty bleak. There’s not a lot of interest. So we created this as a way to add an interesting fabric to the urban realm.”

Mabberley said they’ve looked to partner with schools such as the Vancouver Film School and Emily Carr to provide content for the media screen.

“We’re really in the very beginning process of partnering with those people to create a program whereby students could create content for the screen,” Mabberley said. “The screen, of course, is not approved by the City of Vancouver today, so don’t have a lot of information to go forward with, but should it be approved, that’s our intent.”

While the application proposes the possibility of “limited brand recognition” Mabberley said the screen is not meant to be a billboard or advertising venture, but there can be a cost for creating content.

“What we’ve allow for tenants in the building only is if you want to create content for the screen, you’d have the opportunity to show your logo in a very controlled way for a small percentage of time,” she said.

Some large signs/billboards have been controversial over the years. The Terry Fox Plaza advertising screens sparked complaints from neighbours bothered by the light and visual pollution.

And, after years of legal battles, the city forced the owners of the Lee Building at Main and Broadway to remove the large advertising sign atop that building.

Jane Pickering, deputy director of planning, said the Lee sign was an illegal sign on top of a building, which isn’t permitted in Vancouver.

“That’s what that was about. This is not about that,” she said. “It’s interesting to call it a sign because it’s a big projection screen that was integrated into the building and was reviewed when the rezoning went forward to council. So the intent was always there and the content on it was not going to be for advertising purposes. It’s to display about 90 per cent of cultural [content]…. It isn’t an advertising sign. About 10 per cent of it would be for city usage. So, if the City of Vancouver want to put up something that we’re doing with civic events it could utilize the sign.”

Pickering said the city is still looking into whether or not there should be opportunities for acknowledgment of sponsors on the screen.

The Telus Garden media screen open house runs from 5 to 8 p.m., Feb. 11 at the Westin Grand Hotel in the Allegro boardroom, 433 Robson Street.

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