from tokyo to vancouver


For the first time since the project’s commencement, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma travels to Vancouver to tour his Alberni Tower. The visit bookends the construction of the Westbank-developed project, as it is slated to complete just next month. Soon it will become Kuma’s first-ever residential tower in North America, followed by his Aman residences which have been announced for Miami this past summer.


Now, the Alberni Tower‘s carved-out volume is nearing completion and its fluid interior details are taking shape. On the ground level, the studio’s signature interlocking lattice, or ‘kigumi’ structure, can be glimpsed from the street through the building’s sweeping facade.

kengo kuma vancouverimages © Alan Chan



kengo kuma tours his work


Kengo Kuma reveals in a recent interview that these sculptural features are indeed what he is most eager to see up close during his Vancouver visit. Commenting on the set of ‘scoops’ which define the tower’s unique profile, the architect notes: ‘This is not a detail but the way in which the mass has been shaped to allow for view corridors, not only for the residents but also framing those from neighboring buildings and other vantage points near the site. In principle, those scooped curves help rearrange the building’s proportions unexpectedly while keeping the developable area. It will be a different silhouette, and a distinctive presence on Vancouver’s skyline.’

kengo kuma vancouver



The massive matrix structure which welcomes residents along the ground floor of the Alberni Tower has risen to its intricate glory. While the architecture studio often constructs similar ‘kigumi’ works of wood carpentry, this latest structure will be crafted of metal finished with timber-like surfaces, keeping with Canadian design code.


The second feature is the lattice-like structure at the ground level space,’ the architect explains, describing the aspect of the building he is next most eager to experience, ‘a floating composition of pieces to soften the harder gestures of the building and create a sense of welcome, inviting the space of the city under cover. I am interested in seeing the effect at full scale.

kengo kuma vancouver



As the project will soon mark Kengo Kuma’s first residential high rise in North America, the architect describes what he hopes the new work will convey to the world: ‘The building itself is the statement, and it will be subject to interpretation. We are interested in the elegance of the city skyline beyond purely extruded volumes with nice outer curtain walls, and also a ‘softened’ base of the building that is a covered outdoor gathering space for cultural activities and functions (such as the restaurant), and could be experienced by more than just the residents.

kengo kuma vancouver



Those who are familiar with the work of Kengo Kuma and Associates will recognize the studio’s work by its use of natural materials, especially timber. This time, the Alberni Tower rises with a sweeping metal structure, its deep balconies furnished in wood. The architect describes this material choice: ‘We have used metals in the past, though perhaps not at this scale and in this configuration. The sizes of the pieces, the smaller scale of the units is consistent with our intent to not simply make large, smooth, monolithic masses.


We like showing that this is made of many pieces, expressing the construction and texture of the architecture. We might be known for our use of natural materials such as wood, but we use many: our studies look at the uses, characteristics, techniques, and implementations, which can be applied to many materials, not just one or two.’




project info:


project title: Alberni

lead design architect: Kengo Kuma and Associates (KKAA) @kkaa_official
location: Vancouver, Canada

developer: Westbank @westbankcorp

photography: © Alan Chan


executive architect: Merrick Architecture
landscape architect: PFS Studio
engineer: Glotman Simpson Engineers

KKAA project team: Balazs Bognar, Michael Sypkens*, Esteban Ochogavia*, Richard David Nelson, Nicolas Cazali, Jagoda Krawcyk, Yasemin Sahiner, Kevin Clement, Nicolas Guichard, Moeko Yamagata, Shinya Toyama, Tomohiro Matsunaga, Martina Bandolin, John Xianfeng Jiang, Fumiya Kaneko, Takumi Saikawa*, Mira Yung*, Yu Tsuji* (* former staff)


commencement: 2016
completion: expected December 2022
size: 271,859 sqf / 25,250 sqm
type: residential / commercial

previous coverage: April 2016, November 2020