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Vancouver International Airport’s expanded International Pier D will boast its own forest of towering Western Hemlock trees, writes Joe Bates.

With its Totem poles, a giant jade canoe and its own aquarium, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is already one of the world’s best loved gateways for its unique sense of place, and its ambience designed to encapsulate British Columbia’s land, sea and sky is about to become even more pronounced with the creation of its very own forest inside Pier D.

The forest will form the centrepiece of the ongoing expansion of Pier D, which is being expanded and reconfigured to ensure that the airport is equipped to handle up to 35 million passengers per annum.

Described as a “coastal island forest open to the sky”, it will comprise three local trees set on a landscaped island (mythical island) open to the natural elements, so rain and snow will fall on them just as it would in a normal forest, only airport visitors don’t have to get cold and wet to enjoy the experience!

YVR notes that the design team has recreated a natural environment for the trees to ensure there will be enough direct sunlight, irrigation, misting and physical space for them to thrive and grow to their natural potential as they would in any British Columbia (BC) forest.

The development of Pier D is the biggest expansion programme at the airport since 1996 and also one of the most innovative, which YVR is confident will add to the terminal experience by reflecting the natural landscape of British Columbia’s coastline.

“YVR has had unprecedented growth in recent years and is now one of North America’s fastest-growing international airports,” remarks YVR’s vice president of engineering, Don Ehrenholz.

“The capital construction projects, both underway and planned, are being designed to enhance the passenger experience and improve YVR’s competitive position as a world-class connecting hub. We will also continue to provide our passengers with innovative thematic installations like mythical island that showcase the best of British Columbia.”

Kasian’s Michael McDonald, project director for the design team behind the forest, said: “The mythical island is quintessentially British Columbia, a memorable experience intended to connect passengers to the story of the Pacific North West where every element of the design is a chapter.

“Soaring 17-metre high wood columns support a very large roof opening, an oculus, that will capture the outdoors and bring critical sunlight for three Western Hemlocks set within a dramatic glass oval at the heart of the new expansion.”   

The new portion of Pier D will follow YVR’s Thematic Master Plan objectives to reflect the natural landscape and iconic communities of British Columbia.

As such, it will tell the story of the BC coastline and a mythical coastal island that celebrates and showcases the West Coast of BC, the surrounding landscape of Vancouver and the natural mountains and waterfalls of this region.

The airport reveals that visitors can expect a quiet terminal that will feature art – including First Nations and digital artworks – and a host of restaurants and bars that “reflect the best the province has to offer”, and plenty of seats at the gates.

Due to open in 2020, most crucially, the expanded international pier will allow for the addition of eight gates capable of handling widebody aircraft, including the A380.


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