Nestled in the middle of Vancouver’s trendy fashion district and its subdued business district, the design team at MCM Interiors Ltd. was presented with the challenge of realizing an interior design for a new office tower at 745 Thurlow St. that would embody the spirit of both worlds. To accomplish the feat, they turned to a palette of natural stone, as well as a technically advanced Stoneycomb® installation system which offered a host of benefits.

“The location of this office tower is unique because it sits right between the edge of Vancouver’s central business district and its luxury fashion district,” explained lead interior designer Dale Kosowan, BID, RID, Associate of MCM Interiors Ltd. in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. “As seen in the architecture of the exterior of the building, which has two sides of the building in colored angled glass to represent the fashion district and two sides that are simple and subdued to represent the business district, we wanted to reference the same feeling on the interior. We wanted to create something that would have some ‘wow’ factor, yet remain timeless in its design. Marble was the natural choice.”

The lobby experience is designed to work seamlessly with the exterior approach, which features a large glass overhang and white quartzite floors, according to the design team. The interior space features White Carrara marble floors with diagonal stainless insert strips and walls clad in striped Marmara marble.

Favoring natural materials

“We started by knowing we wanted higher-end, quality, natural materials throughout the public spaces,” said Kosowan. “The tower was going to be a AAA and LEED Gold designated office tower, so attracting quality tenants was key. A few of the material selections evolved with the design progression as we presented different materials and renderings to the client. For example, we originally started with black marble flooring and columns in the lobby. This was changed to white to create a brighter cleaner feel.  However, we always knew we wanted the striped Marmara marble to wrap the walls completely for a dramatic effect. We ended up choosing honed Nero Assoluto black granite on the columns as a subtle complement to the dark glass of the building.”

Kosowan explained the client was very involved in the stone selection process. “The client has developed several buildings throughout Vancouver and is therefore quite design savvy,” he said. “They wanted something different from the other projects in their portfolio. We first had to get approvals from the developer, Bentall Kennedy, and then present the designs to the owner for final approval.”

The white quartzite — supplied by Ames Tile & Stone Ltd. with several locations, including Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada — was given a flamed finish and custom cut to three sizes: 8- x 24-, 8- x 36- and 8- x 48-inch formats. The tiles were installed in a staggered pattern. “We wanted a non-slip material on the exterior approach to the entry that also tied into the white marble floor on the inside of the lobby,” explained Kosowan.

The flooring in the main lobby area consists of Carrara White marble and accents of the material were also carried into the elevator cabs and on typical multi-tenant floor elevator lobbies. Slabs were cut to 36- x 36-inch pieces and inlaid accent trim pieces from Schluter Systems, based in Montreal, Canada, created additional pattern and interest, according to the interior designer. Moreover, the transaction top on the concierge desk was also fabricated from Carrara marble.

“We wanted as large of pieces as possible, and we also wanted the seams to line up with various plane changes within the architecture of the space,” said Kosowan. “Therefore, we had each piece custom cut and designed to fit the walls in a seamless pattern. The size of the panels ranged from the smallest at 3 feet, 11 inches in height by 4 feet, 6 inches in width to the largest at 4 feet, 3 inches in height by 9 feet, 9 inches in width.”

According to Kosowan, mock-ups were not done on site. “The design was approved from 3D renderings and the stone installer, Star Tile, provided very detailed shop drawings on the install,” he explained. “The whole system was to be labeled and installed like a jigsaw puzzle. A small ‘mock-up’ of all materials used together was installed in the developer’s boardroom which doubled as a presentation center for potential tenants.”

All of the stone for the project was supplied by Atlas Stone of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. “The lead architect of the building, from our associate office MCMP Architects, went with the developer to Italy to select the specific boulders that we wanted to use,” said Kosowan. “From looking at various samples of Marmara, it was important to select stones that didn’t have too much variation in the striping. Some Marmara has strong black lines running through it and we wanted the type that was a more subtle gradation in gray and white tones. We also didn’t want boulders with veins running diagonally, as it would take away from the perfect ‘striped’ bookmatching effect we wanted to achieve.”

A unique installation system

The design team was able to achieve the almost seamless perfectly aligned striping aesthetic in the marble walls by using the Zanaglia Stoneycomb System, which allowed for thin marble veneers to be adhered to an aluminum honeycomb mounting system. Kosowan explained that the system is a composite product made of a thin layer of natural stone laminated to an aluminum honeycomb panel with fiberglass epoxy skins. The panels were numbered and arranged to match the interior design drawings and then anchored to the wall with stainless steel pins and angle supports fastened to the concrete.

“The Zanaglia Stoneycomb System was brought to our attention by our stone supplier, Atlas Stone,” said Kosowan. “It serves three purposes. One, it reduced the cost of the stone because the slabs are thinner. Two, it reduced the weight of the stone slabs and, therefore, we could get bigger slabs with less seams in the wall application. And three, because we wanted to align the stripes in the marble perfectly horizontally between adjacent slabs, the thinner slab cuts meant for more pieces to be cut from a single boulder, and therefore, more bookmatching was possible for the larger stretches of wall.”

During the stone installation process, which took approximately six weeks, Kosowan and his design team visited the jobsite every few days. “Our offices are a few blocks from the site, so supervising installation was quite easy,” he said. “Concerns about the size of the Schluter accent pieces and expansion joint locations had to be addressed quickly on site.  Alignment of the marble slabs to create the perfect striping was also a big concern.”

Kosowan went on to explain that aligning the stripes in the Marmara marble was probably the most challenging aspect of the project. “At one point, one of the panels was installed in the wrong location which created an obvious misalignment in the striping,” he said. “The panel was removed and replaced.

“Another challenge was ensuring that the slabs all fit in perfectly, that cutouts for directories and recessed monitors were also perfect,” he continued. “Therefore, exact site dimensions were crucial prior to cutting.”

Work on the building’s shell commenced in March of 2014, with interior fit out starting in January 2015. The office tower officially opened in September 2015.

“The reaction has been quite positive,” said Kosowan. “The office space portion of the tower was 95% leased several months prior to opening — the vast majority of the floors to only two major tenants. One is a law firm, the other an engineering firm. Key fashion retailers Brunello Cucinelli, Strellson and Versace were also quick to take the main floor retail spaces.”    

745 Thurlow St. Office Tower

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Lead Architect: MCMP Architects, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Design Architect: MCM Interiors Ltd. in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Stone Suppliers: Atlas Stone, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (Carrara marble, Marmara marble, Nero Assoluto black granite); Ames Tile & Stone Ltd., Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (quartzite)

Installation Products Manufacturer: Schluter Systems, Montreal, Canada