Architectural Wonder – Surrey Central...a must visit building
“Arriving by Skytrain at Surrey Central station, Bing Thom Architects' (BTA) new development dominates the landscape. With its elliptical glass tower rising 25 stories above an otherwise bleak panorama of asphalt pavement and squat concrete boxes, the project seems to have been dropped onto the site from another place and time. In a sense it has, for if the vision of a new metropolis is to be realized here, then this project is surely a glimpse into the future.”
– Jim Taggart, www.canadianarchitect.com
Once across the street and at the base of the immaculately carved sculpture of glass, visitors are immediately awed by the sheer size of the glass tower and curved glass façade encompassing the entire courtyard out front. There is then a multitude of entrances to consider: is coffee needed from the easily accessible blends, or is a more potent potion craved from Surrey Central Pub. Perhaps your visit entails a more educational purpose, and one of the other creatively lit, glass door entrances would be more appealing.
Now inside, the cold crisp British Columbia morning instantly abates and you find yourself inside the architectural wonder. Now standing inside the massive atrium of glass and light to your right, a bank of eight elevators sit waiting to take you to the twenty some odd floors, housing everything from University offices, to government offices, to JP Morgan offices [Access given only to the select few.] To your left the entrance to the mall – creatively nestled into this amazing structure: shopping for shoes? Try Foot Locker or Payless. Hungry? Try the food court. Clothing? Zellers and many others. Then in front of you sits the wide entrance to the SFU surrey campus, where students frantically finish papers, joke about classes, perform plays, attend lectures, and wreak havoc by frightening first years with horror stories of the hardships to come.
Not only are the options many, within the 1.7 million sq. ft of multi-use space, but the fashion in which the numerous facilities were painstakingly fit together is a wondrous feat all on its own. The actual floors of the tower offices and a majority of the SFU campus are actually hollow – about 2-3 feet thick – allowing all ventilation and electrical work to be done underneath your very feet. This hollow floor also gives way to the constantly accessible power outlets, scattered at nearly every workstation and break-time hangout, for all those ‘laptoppers’ out there.
Once up the stairs of SFU into what is known as the Mezzanine, the eyes immediately shoot upwards to the massive inverted cone of steel anchoring and wood. [Commonly referred to by the students as the “death ray” or “kingpin”]
This statement which encompasses the huge circular skylight above it is actually a structural masterpiece. The configuration in which it is created offers the uniquely designed ceiling a flexible support in lieu of an earthquake. [The steel cables offer flexibility, not unlike the swaying of tall reinforced buildings] Similarly down the galleria [rightly nicknamed "the boat"] also has smaller, “kingpins” all along its length creating a spine of earthquake support, a “backbone” if you will. This galleria was actually designed to mimic an inverted hull of a boat. The wood - in the spine and the major ”kingpin” - has been compacted and is said to offer more strength than steel. The “boat” at nearly 140 metres in length and 30 metres at its widest point is completely open from the ceiling to the mall, five floors below. The two sides of the galleria are, at one end, connected by three tiers of bridges which, for many, offer the best view of this amazing structure.
The walls of the galleria are unique from any other as they curve smoothly from floor to ceiling, with wood slates creating a very cozy feeling, above the three to five floor drop, so close at hand.
The front entrances, which guides the multitude of professionals, students, teachers, and many more, is a carved glass wall of 25 metres in height held up by beautiful wood-steel supports, and is capped by a huge curving, sculpted layer of concrete. It then extends upwards into the massive tower of steel and floor-to-ceiling widows, which curves majestically into the sky, ending with a prominent cloud piercing point. The Surrey Central logo is tacked neatly to the building at this gut wrenching height.
This building is a must see for anyone coming to visit the lower mainland. Not only is it big, new, and welcoming, but it also offers a treat for your eyes in its complexity and unique futuristic design.