In 1987, the owner of the Laurel Point Inn approached me about designing a major addition to his hotel which sits on a spectacular point of land at the mouth of Victoria’s Inner Harbour. I was working with Arthur Erickson Architects at the time, so he hired the firm and requested the firm to have me work as project architect and principal designer on the project. The client was looking for something striking, authentic and modern and he wanted it to stand out among the iconic historical buildings around the harbour so that it would be memorable to potential guests. As the design concept evolved the building took on the feel of a cruise ship on land with subtle ship-like details and an elevator shaft for a symbolic smoke stack. When the building opened, conservative critics didn’t know what to do with it but visitors and locals soon made it a popular destination for weddings, graduations and get aways. Now 20 years old, the building looks like it could have been built yesterday.
From above the stepping terraces of the building look like a ship trailed by waves as it goes through the water. But the stepping terraces are not just for appearance. They have a more important function: by stepping back the building lets sunlight into the Japanese water garden earlier in the day so guests can be out in it for more of their stay. The water garden to the west of the new wing also has another function: it also serves as a moat to separate the hotel from the public park without becoming a barrier that would block the view from the hotel to the water.
The new wing holds the hotel’s most luxurious guest rooms and most important public spaces, both interior and exterior. At ground level the all-glass Terrace Room opens out onto terraces overlooking the Japanese water garden. On upper floors, each guest suite has its own large terrace open to the sky above. Inside the rooms have a simple feel with rich finishes and clean modern details. The largest suite has its own dining room, bar and spiral staircase to a bedroom that occupies the whole of the top floor.
Guest rooms at garden level open out into private terraces that extend into the Japanese garden. Glass screens with sand-blasted trellis patterns provide privacy from terrace to terrace. Each floor steps back from the floor below it giving every guest room its own large terrace open to the sky above. Solid glass railings all rooms an unbroken view of the garden below and the harbour beyond.
The Terrace Room, the main assembly hall for the hotel, looks out over the Japanese water garden to the Outer Harbour beyond. The park between the two is barely visible so the water garden seems to bring the harbour up to the doors of the hotel.
Looking up from the garden below, the details of the building have a nautical feel reflecting the hotel’s position at the mouth of Victoria’s iconic Inner Harbour. The elevator shaft forms the ship’s funnel and every guest room has the feel of a stateroom on a luxury liner.