West Vancouver is known for its rugged shoreline and unparalleled views of the city and ocean. Overlooking this stands Villa Maris, an iconic West Vancouver residence whose 15-storeys of swooping 1960s architecture and pastel pink exterior has garnered it the nickname, The Pink Palace. This 101-unit apartment building has received a unique facelift this winter, one that adds a level of elegance not just to the building but to the West Vancouver shoreline.

In 2014, owner and president of Hannover Properties, Billy Lachman contacted the design team of Cornelia Hahn Oberlander and Enns|Gauthier Landscape Architects to upgrade the roof that had covered the residence’s parking garage. From their first visit, the team was inspired by the view from the roof – the sweeping vista of the Strait of Georgia, bookended by Stanley Park on one side and the endless North Shore Mountains on the other. Their objective was to transform this empty roof into a garden meadow extending the majestic waterfront onto the roof itself, underlining Oberlander’s assertion that “greenroofs should be fun and inspiring to the viewer.”

The design team’s vision carried with it levels of complexity as the design was neither a typical landscape nor an ordinary greenroof; The undulating forms and variety of roof cover presented a number of technological challenges ranging from the types of materials used to the logistical difficulties presented by a 50 year old structure. In order to realize their objective, a comprehensive design build team was assembled: dWG Design Studio, Read Jones Christofferson, Architek, North by Northwest, Roy Denis Roofing, and Krahn Engineering all led by Cornelia Hahn Oberlander with Enns|Gauthier Landscape Architects.

A highly rigorous design, development and construction process ensued. The roof’s undulating mounds were formed with lightweight blocks of polystyrene carved by hand into the desired shape. Hours were spent working with the contractors under the direction of Bryce Gauthier overseeing, principal of Enns | Gauthier ensuring that the shapes and angles were precisely sculpted to work views.

Designing and building a greenroof is very different than creating a landscape on grade. Normal soil is too heavy, so an ultra-light engineered growing medium comprised of pumice, organic material and sand is used. The green roof was planted with grass in most areas, though cut-outs in the polystyrene mounds allowed for large native pines to be placed at key locations on the roof deck.

Construction crews worked in high winds at times and cranes were used to lift all of the materials into place. The layers of waterproofing membrane, drainage board, growing medium, plants, anchors (to keep trees from blowing over), edging, seating areas and other structural details were designed and built with exacting detail to result in a landscape that is both stunningly beautiful and highly functional in the extreme conditions of a waterfront rooftop.

“You look out at the view of the water and on top of that, there is this garden that looks like a painting,” exclaims Lachman. “It actually enhances an already breathtaking view.” Bryce Gauthier adds, “There are many people who are only interested in the idea of a greenroof but Bill is one of those few that has gone through the process from start to finish. He was a champion in ensuring the project met the highest standards of design and materials.”

Villa Maris was featured in Western Living Magazine and was part of The Cultural Landscape Foundation’s Garden Dialogues for 2015.