If you live in Vancouver, chances are you’ve passed by, and even maybe admired, a building or two by local architectural firm Formwerks. Started in 1988, the business is best known for its 600 or so custom single-family homes, townhouses and speciality commercial structures like Fifth Avenue Cinemas on Burrard. Helmed by founder and president Jim Bussey, his buildings possess a unique local character that he says happens almost organically.
“It is something that evolves out of clients’ wishes. I am not just being humble — I don’t know how else to express it. But it happens when I listen deeply to get what my clients want. From there, I can weave their good intentions into the urban fabric,” says Bussey, likening the design process to a writer creating poetry.
The latest creation-in-the-works by Formwerks Boutique Properties — a separate development arm of the company — is a series of townhouses titled Winona Park Chateau Parkside Residences, located across Winona Park in the 300 block of West 62nd Avenue. The project, slated for a fall 2016 completion, is comprised of 19 two and three bedroom and den residences. At nearly 16,000 square feet, it is less than two blocks east of Cambie Street, the Canada Line Marine Drive Station, and within easy walking distance to Langara Golf Course, Langara College and Oakridge Centre.
It’s worth mentioning that Winona Park Chateau Parkside Residences is part of the recently city-approved Marpole Community Plan, which allows for townhouses to be built.
“The zoning bylaws originally established that Vancouver did not provide for townhouse,” says Bussey, who is a big proponent for this particular type of community-oriented dwelling and feels it addresses a gap between single-family houses and apartments.
“It’s more compact, more affordable with a lot of the same benefits that single family houses have. With a built-in opportunity for community, these offerings go a long way in fulfilling that need. As far as landscape in Vancouver goes, we needed a denser housing solution.”
Equally as important to Bussey as simply filling a niche is retaining the character and feel of the surrounding neighbourhood. For instance, Granville Mews, another successful Formwerks townhouse project near Granville Street at 52nd Avenue, was inspired by nearby Trinity Baptist Church. Winona Park’s obvious design influence is an expansive and beautiful park, and he says people can expect a timeless look with selective use of stone, robust wood detailing, iron railings, divided windows and interesting roof forms. And, of course, all feature excellent, user-friendly floor plans.
Bussey adds quality and design always was and will be the foundation and strength of Formwerks. By raising the bar for almost three decades, he and his company are proud of the value they bring to clients and to the community alike.
Most of his work is found on the west side of Vancouver, but the firm has also been invited to complete highly regarded houses in other places such as Victoria, where he completed his undergrad in philosophy and history in 1980 at the University of Victoria. During this period, he also gained deep insight into the timeless value embodied in traditional architecture. Bussey says he always had a “deep yearning” to become an architect and later attended the UBC School of Architecture.
“There’s a need and urgency in me to build,” he says. “I couldn’t be doing anything else. I was always very visual, very three-dimensional. In everything else I’m hopelessly redundant.”
Videography Credit: Provoke Studios