Granville Island Redevelopment

Vancouver's Cultural Heart


Connecting the city’s Kitsliano neighbourhood with the West End neighbourhood and downtown core.

Granville Island is one of Canada’s most visited public places. Reborn from a longstanding industrial site, the 38-acre redevelopment was the brainchild of Norm Hotson and Joost Bakker, two young local architects with a vision for waterfront development. Its design engagement includes streetworks and open spaces, including: the Granville Island Hotel, Granville Island Brew Pub, the public market, restaurants and shops, artist studios, workshops and theatres, traffic and parking design, shoreline edges, children’s play features, and a water park. The strategic introduction of landscaping and intervention with the waterfront created a cultural heart for Vancouver. It is a place for respite and community celebration – it’s a people place.

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Vancouver, BC
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
DIALOG Services

Planning & Urban Design

Resisting popular opinion to turn the site into yet another city park, Norm Hotson and Joost Bakker believed that if programmed correctly, the existing factory spaces would energize the city.

Granville Island’s impact on the city is difficult to summarize, but to say that it has transformed the waterfront would be an understatement.

Connecting the city’s Kitsliano neighbourhood with the West End neighbourhood and downtown core.

Heralded by planners, politicians, and in publications worldwide as one of the most important urban precedents of our time, Granville Island is a pioneering project in mixed-use developments.

The revival of Vancouver’s iconic Granville Island inspired the theory of urban magnets: “unique urban places that attract and hold activity groups.”

Multiple cultural venues, annual festivals, art galleries, and artist studios contribute to the Island’s larger cultural presence in the city.

Its dramatic juxtaposition of very different uses contributes to the Island’s unique animation and has inspired regeneration projects the world over…

…the culmination of which collides people and their ideas to create a dynamic community.

Vancouver’s neglected industrial island was transformed into an urban magnet in the 1970s.

The Team

We were interested in the buildings and the stories they had to tell. We fought to give them new purpose and show people how special they could be – if used meaningfully.

Joost Bakker
Evoke DIALOG | Granville Island
Four key elements

Non-traditional retail space, the production of goods / education on site, authentic landscaping, and festival space.

Shifting the Island's energy

… is the fact that there are no loading docks or curbs.

The free flow of vehicles, bicycles, and foot traffic bring a natural energy to the site.

Maintaining the historical character of the Island was a key success factor.

Rigorous design guidelines contribute to maintaining the original look and feel of the Island while encouraging authentic enhancement.

Restoration and regeneration as a guideline have helped elevate the natural and historic feel, as well as the economy of the Island.

In 2008, an updated Urban Design Plan for the next 20 years of development on Granville Island found areas where revenues could be augmented to offset rising operating costs. Cue artful parking lots…


1977 Award of ExcellenceCanadian Architect Yearbook