The West Vancouver Aquatic centre displaying someone jumping in between large wooden pillars in the shape of an organic 'V'.

West Vancouver Aquatic Centre and Community Centre


West Vancouver, BC

On any given day, people flock to what is now the civic and social heart of West Vancouver. Hundreds go for the community programs. Hundreds more – families, seniors and youth – just hang out. Some spaces are used exactly as intended. Many exceed expectations and now support programs that no one ever imagined.

The West Vancouver Community Centre transformed and redirected hcma as a company. The community immediately adopted the design, and in going back year after year, hearing people talk about the facilities and seeing people make these spaces their own, we're continuously reminded of the positive impact that meaningful community consultation and smart design can yield.

Evening scene of the West Vancouver Community Centre–a large building with a lot of windows and two big rock sculpture at the entrance.
Total transformation

At the start of this project, West Vancouver had a 35-year old recreation centre and a 25-year old civic pool that were disconnected, undersized, and inefficient for delivering services the community needed. The Civic Centre site clearly had the potential to be a vital community hub, but it lacked magnetism.

Now, the West Vancouver Aquatic and Community Centres stand together as a landmark community wellness facility offering recreation, arts and social community services, and a full-service community health centre, serving thousands annually.

View through open doors into the West Vancouver Aquatic & Community Centre atrium.

“The aquatic centre is a collage of the community’s values, reflecting exciting opportunities for everyone to enjoy. The building is beautiful, truly inviting, and was able to capture who the community is and what they wanted.”

Anne Titcomb, West Vancouver Advisory Aquatic Centre Design Committee

A kid playing around the front fountain, which has a large rock in it.
Kids walking on gymnastics beams in the gymnastics room.
Wooden beams along a tall halfway, connected by colourful bridges.
A place for training and tradition

Men in their 70s, 80s, 90s and 100s gather at the West Vancouver Community Centre for Fit Fellas: a fitness program that has thrived for 45 years and offers much more than just physical exercise. Barry, a lifelong fitness coach who joined Fit Fellas over 26 years ago, tells us about the vitality of this special fitness community.

This short film is part of The Space Between, a growing collection of stories that offer a glimpse into the lives of the people who use the buildings we design: the people we design for.

To learn more and discover other stories, visit The Space Between.

It starts with the community

The District of West Vancouver came to us to re-envision their facilities. But the Aquatic and Community Centres are actually the realization of the aspirations of the community of West Vancouver.

Through extensive consultation, the community set the bar high with goals to: provide an open and engaging recreation facility, revitalize an important public site, and demonstrate environmental stewardship.

Here, Sue Ketler, Senior Manager, Community Services, District of West Vancouver, describes the result:

“I want you to imagine this for a moment… it is a sunny and warm day, the Atrium is busy … and many children are running through the fountain, playing and climbing!

Parents and grandparents sit and watch, some having a coffee from the café. The Tae Kwon Do class that was scheduled to be in the Spirit Room has moved onto the Great Lawn – so there are 30 kids in their white uniforms outside…. Sliders, on both the north and south sides of the atrium are fully open, creating this amazing feeling of fresh air and wind…”

Looking through an outdoor window into the indoor pool, showcasing the large red slide and space that the windows create.
Measuring social impact

The depth of the impact of the West Vancouver Centre caught us off guard, and we started asking new and better questions about the social impact of our work as architects and designers.

hcma Managing Partner, Darryl Condon says:

“I could feel in my stomach that something important was happening. That’s what we were excited about evaluating and building on.”

The architectural industry has questions and markers to measure success against schedules, budgets, environmental or performance standards, but at the time it didn't have markers to measure social impact and lasting social value.

The excitement and pride the community feel in this facility is a kind of success marker. But what impact does that have? How does a space's potential change or increase when its users and stakeholders are genuinely moved by the design?

These are the types of questions we now actively explore. This project started us down that path.

People taking a yoga class, sitting in butterfly pose on their mats. The photo is taken through the glass, looking into the studio, from across the circulation spine that slices into upper levels. Colourful bridges connect rooms across the spine.
Exterior of the West Vancouver Aquatic and Community Centre, with the mountainous, forested context in the background, and the great lawn stretching into the foreground. Various patrons mill about outside.
A place to feel less alone

The West Vancouver Aquatic Centre hosts a class for polio survivors facing the gradual onset of post-polio syndrome. But in the water, surrounded by friends, the disease no longer takes centre stage.

For other stories like the ones we have here, visit The Space Between.


IAKS / International Paralympic Committee Distinction for Accessibility 2013

World Architecture Festival - ONCE Foundation Award for Accessibility in Architecture 2010

Other Projects