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VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre

Canadian architectural practice Busby Perkins+Will has designed the new Visitor Center at VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver, Canada, ensuring a harmonious balance between built and natural landscapes.The new $22 million visitor centre is currently under construction at the VanDusen Botanical Garden, which is spread over 55 acres featuring more than 255,000 different types of plants.

VanDusen-Botanical-Garden-Visitor-Centre-By-PerkinsWill-03-759x506 VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre / Perkins+Will

© Nic Lehoux

Entry to a dramatic new Visitor Centre will be capped by a transparent two-storey roof lantern visible from Oak Street. Constructed of timber and glass, the Visitor Centre will complement the existing architecture, provide a stimulating experience for visitors and perform several vital roles.

VanDusen-Botanical-Garden-Visitor-Centre-By-PerkinsWill-05-759x506 VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre / Perkins+Will

© Nic Lehoux

Busby Perkins + Will landscape designer Cornelia Hahn Oberlander have been commissioned to design the 20,000 square feet facility highlighting this oasis well into the future. The new facility is tailored to its stunning natural context, ensuring a harmonious balance between built and natural landscapes.

VanDusen-Botanical-Garden-Visitor-Centre-By-PerkinsWill-08-759x506 VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre / Perkins+Will

© Nic Lehoux

The design seeks to create a harmonious dialogue between the facility and the garden and reflect not just the nature of the surroundings but also the nature of the community. The facility that gradually emerges from its surrounding landscape will maximize integration, minimize intrusion, and offer energy savings through the landscape’s natural insulation.

VanDusen-Botanical-Garden-Visitor-Centre-By-PerkinsWill-09-800x1200 VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre / Perkins+Will

© Nic Lehoux

This facility is designed to meet the criteria of both the Living Building Challenge and LEED Platinum certification. The sustainable elements include a 50ft-tall atrium, café, lecture rooms, exhibition spaces, and guest services for the park. The design team integrated a number of sustainable features, including natural ventilation, local materials, sustainably harvested wood, and a rainwater catchment system. The green roof will feature walls made of rammed earth. To power the building, the owner plans to purchase energy produced from nearby hydro plants.

VanDusen-Botanical-Garden-Visitor-Centre-By-PerkinsWill-10-800x1200 VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre / Perkins+Will

© Nic Lehoux

Outside the Visitor Centre, an enlarged garden deck will offer sweeping views of the unfolding panorama with expansive terraces that feature waterlily pools, changing displays of plant material and vistas to the distant mountains. A Casual Food Service Pavilion offering simple fare, shelter, restrooms and comfortable seating will also be featured.

The final VanDusen Botanical Garden facility design must also provide a strong, inviting heart for the garden. Possibilities for this core area include a flowing entry with surprising and inviting partial views, revealing the gardens slowly as one passes through the facility. The building will be a harmonious and fluid addition to the landscape.

VanDusen-Botanical-Garden-Visitor-Centre-By-PerkinsWill-06-800x1200 VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre / Perkins+Will

© Nic Lehoux


Inspired by organic forms and natural systems, the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre seeks to create a harmonious balance between architecture and landscape, from a visual and an ecological perspective. The dynamic single-story structure includes an innovative prefabricated roof form that appears to float above the building’s curved rammed earth and concrete walls. Metaphorically representing undulating petals, the building form flows seamlessly into a central oculus and the surrounding landscape.

VanDusen-Botanical-Garden-Visitor-Centre-By-PerkinsWill-04-759x506 VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre / Perkins+Will

© Nic Lehoux

Located on the Garden’s prominent southeast corner, the 19,000 square foot Visitor Centre transforms the site’s entrance to heighten public awareness of the Garden, its conservation mandate, and the importance of nature. The building houses a café, library, volunteer facilities, garden shop, offices, and flexible classroom/rental spaces.

VanDusen-Botanical-Garden-Visitor-Centre-By-PerkinsWill-07-759x506 VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre / Perkins+Will

© Nic Lehoux

Designed to exceed LEED Platinum status, the Visitor Centre is Living Building Challenge Petal Certified, the first building to apply in Canada. The building uses on-site, renewable sources to achieve net-zero energy on an annual basis. Wood is the primary building material, storing carbon dioxide for the life of the building. Rainwater is filtered and used for the building’s greywater requirements; 100% of blackwater is treated by an on-site bioreactor—the first of its kind in Vancouver—and released into a new percolation field located in the garden.

VanDusen-Botanical-Garden-Visitor-Centre-By-PerkinsWill-02-800x1200 VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre / Perkins+Will

© Nic Lehoux

Project Data:

Project name: VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre
Location: VanDusen Botanical Garden, Vancouver, Canada
Coordinates: 49.239279, -123.128881
Type: Visitor Centre
Project Area: 19,000 sq.ft
Cost: $22 million
Completion Date: August 2011


  • 2014 – WAN Awards – Category: Sustainable Building of the Year – Winner
  • 2013 – GLOBE Awards – Category: Awards for Environmental Excellence, Excellence in Urban Sustainability – Finalist
  • 2013 – North American Wood Design Award – Canadian Wood Council – Wood Innovation Award
  • 2012 – WAN Awards – Category: Engineering – Winner
  • 2012 – Architectural Institute of British Columbia Award – Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia Awards – Merit Award

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation
Architects: Perkins + Will – Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Structural Engineer: Fast + Epp
Mechanical / Electrical Engineer: Integral Group (formerly Cobalt Engineering)
Landscape Architect: Sharp & Diamond Landscape Architecture Inc. with Cornelia Hahn Oberlander
General Contractor: Ledcor Construction
Text Description: © Courtesy of Perkins + Will
Images: © Nic Lehoux


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