Urban Oases of Victoria - The Atrium Building


Most of my favourite urban oases have at least a little bit, but usually a lot of nature. They for a moment take you away from the idea that you are in the city. There are a few places, however, that embody the urban feel and yet are still a sanctuary from the buzz of the street. These are wholly created spaces. The Atrium building on Yates and Blanshard in Victoria is one. This is not a peaceful garden or winding path through a park. What makes the Atrium amazing is that it is a truly a piece of the city that you can relax in. 


The building was designed by Franc D'Ambrosio, one of Victoria's most prolific and visionary architects. Those that read often will remember that I don't always think that he has been fully successful; the goals he has with each project however, are impressive. On the website for his architecture firm, there is a film about the Atrium building and it is clear that this project must be one of the most successful implementations of his vision. The idea truly was to create a public gathering place inside a private office building. 

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Walk into the lobby of most office buildings and you are confronted by a security desk. There is not a strong sense that you are wanted to stay. Walking into the Atrium, the doors move out of your way automatically and no matter whether you are walking in from the southern or western entrance there is feeling that you should completely come into the building. Entering off of Blanshard the building actually pulls you into the atrium away from from the security desk, which is tucked in a corner, out of sight. 

When standing in the middle of the atrium you get a sense of place. Even with a lot of people in there at the stores, having coffee, or just sitting and talking with friends, there is a quiet that is relaxing. 

One of the reasons that the space is so successful is its amazing design. The ceiling, seven floors up is glass and the surrounding walls of wood undulate around the plaza. Even a feature as mundane and fabricated as the elevators are a piece of moving art here. 

The seating is usually more spread out, however it
looked as though an event had just finished. 
Despite the amazing architecture, one of my favourite parts of the atrium is the seating that is available. There are two circular wooden pieces of art that ask you to sit on them. There are also sets of long tables and benches that encourage sitting and having a conversation. It in many ways resembles the ad hoc conversation places you see at universities.  

Next time you are walking by stop and get a coffee at Habit, sit at one of the tables, watch the people coming through, and enjoy the quiet of the space. 

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