Case Studies, Pendrell Place - Litigation: Summary to December 2003

Strata Plan VR 1008 - Pendrell Place
Litigation Summary
September 4, 2002
Date Commenced: October 21, 1999
Action #: A992765
Registry: Supreme - Vancouver
Parties: Ziggy's Glass v. VR 1008
Status: Reduced to Small Claims Action
Eventually led to Small Claims Action #2001-66407, Vanc.
 
Date Commenced: February 19, 2001
Action #: 2001-66402
Registry: Small Claims, Vanc.
Parties: Ziggy's Glass v. VR 1008
Status: Settled December 14, 2001 for $5,400 by Administrator and ratified by Owners at SGM March 28, 2002
_______________________________________________________
Date Commenced: August 2, 2000
Action #: S061626
Registry: Supreme - Vanc.
Parties: VR 1008 v. Oldaker
Status: Discontinued October 26, 2000
WRIT - Collection of outstanding Strata Fees
Oldaker paid oustanding amounts September 2000 and matter was discontinued
_______________________________________________________
Date Commenced: December 28, 2000
Action #: L003498
Registry: Supreme - Vanc.
Parties: Oldaker v. VR 1008
Status: Pending
PETITION:
Seeks declaration that:
a) collection action S061626 was commenced in violation of Section 171(2) of the Strata Property Act;
b) Strata Corporation violated Section 36(1) of the Act;
c) Strata Corporation failed to restore Strata Lot contrary to Section 72 of the Act;
d) Strata Corporation failed to discharge standard of care contrary to Section 31(a)(b) of the Act;
e) Order to pay Mr. Oldaker $1,250.00 per month commencing June 1, 2000;
f) Order to appoint Administrator.
October 26, 2001
Heard by Madam Justice Stromberg-Stein resulting in appointment of Administrator to June 30, 2002
May 22, 2002
Notice of Motion brought by Oldaker
Claims the 3/4 vote resolution passed March 28 authorizing a Special Levy of $45,000 for Operating Capital be declared null and void.
Heard by Madam Justice Boyd July 10, 2002 and dismissed.
June 27, 2002
Consent Order (entered July 17, 2002) without hearing to modify Administrator's appointment and extend same to September 13, 2002.
July 23, 2002
Notice of Motion brought by VR 1008
Sought to have funds purportedly held in trust by the Strata Corporation on behalf of Vojic, Monk, Hamilton and Oldaker released to the Strata Corporation.
Heard by Madam Justice DOrgan September 12 and 13, 2002 and granted with costs.
August 30, 2002
Notice of Motion brought by Oldaker
Sought to set aside resolutions passed at SGM of August 26, 2002 raising special levies of $15,000 and $5,000 for defending L003498 and S024180 respectively.
Heard by Madam Justice Dorgan September 12 & 13, 2002 and dismissed with costs.
September 12 & 13, 2002
Petition herd by Madam Justice Dorgan September 12 & 13, 2002 adn Administrator appointment extended until January 31, 2003. All other relief sought by Oldaker dismissed with costs without prejudice to the claims being made in Actions S024180 and S12351.
November 19, 2002
Notice of Motion brought by Oldaker
Requests Stay of Execution of the Order of Madam Justice Dorgan in assessing of Special Levies.
Heard December 4, 2002 in Supreme Court and referred to Court of Appeal.
_______________________________________________________
 
Date Commenced: April 20, 2001
Action #: S066018
Registry: Supreme - New West.
Parties: VR 1008 v. Walker & Vancity
Status: Complete (September 15, 2002)
WRIT
Collection action for outstanding strata fees
 
Date Commenced: July 3, 2001
Action #: S068435
Registry: Supreme - New West.
Parties: Vancity v. Walker & VR 1008
Status: Complete (September 15, 2002)
WRIT
Foreclosure action resulted in Order for Sale and sale of Property on or about August 15, 2002
_______________________________________________________
 
Date Commenced: April 26, 2001
Action #: S012351
Registry: Supreme - Vanc.
Parties: Hamilton, Monk, Oldaker, Vojic & Vojic v. Ball, Bramham, Campos, Carriere, Coleman, Erdman, Halva, Lewis & Lewis
Status: Pending
WRIT
Relief for damages for contravention section 31, 36 & 72 of the Strata Property Act, mis-management, improper conduct, negligence, bad faith and an accounting of financial affairs.
Amended Statement of Claim filed November 8, 2002
Hearing set for November 22, 2002 but adjourned generally by consent due to health of Mark Tweedy, solicitor for the defendants retained by Strata Corporation Insurer, AXA Pacific
_______________________________________________________
 
Date Commenced: July 3, 2001
Action #: S068435
Registry: Supreme - New West.
Parties: Vancity v. Walker
Status:
_______________________________________________________
 
Date Commenced: July 6, 2001
Action #: L011861
Registry: Supreme - Vanc.
Parties: Gonzalez, Hamilton, Monk, Oldaker, Vojic & Vojic v. VR 1008
Status: Pending
PETITION
Seeks that SGM of June 18, 2001 was in contravention of Strata Property Act and an Order that the Special General Meeting be cancelled.
_______________________________________________________
 
Date Commenced: August 7, 2001
Action #: L012185
Registry: Supreme - Vanc.
Parties: Ball, Bramham, Campos, Coleman, Fetherling, Lewis & Lewis, Owens v. VR 1008
Status:
_______________________________________________________
 
Date Commenced: March 28, 2002
Action #: 2002-73631
Registry: Small Claims - Vanc.
Parties: Gonzales & Gonzales v. VR 1008
Status: Pending
Relief sought: costs associated with legal counsel to redress purchase of #102, partial offset of proportionate costs associatd with repairs of #504, building envelope condition assessment, forensic auditor costs and Administrator costs.
Strata Corporation and Martin Lewis being defended by Dianna Hwang, solicitor appointed by Strata Corporation Insurer, AXA Pacific.
Settlement Conference set for October 30, 2002 adjourned at request of Gonzales until January 29, 2003.
_______________________________________________________
 
Date Commenced: June 7, 2002
Action #: L021782
Registry: Supreme - Vanc.
Parties: Oldaker v. Ascent, Ball, Bramham, Campos, Carriere, Halva, Lewis, Sullivan Construction & VR 1008
Status: Pending
WRIT
Claims negligence against defendants other than Strata Corporation.
Claims Strata Corporation failed to exercise powers and discharge duties as provided in the Strata Property Act by failing to cause the property of the Plaintiff to be restored to an habitable condition in a timely manner in compliance with Bylaw 171 of the City of Vancouver Building Code and the Building Envelope Renovation Regulations and therefore has contravened Section 72 of the Strata Property Act.
_______________________________________________________
 
Date Commenced: July 26, 2002
Action #: S024180
Registry: Supreme - Vanc.
Parties: Hamilton, Monk, Oldaker, Tan, Vojic & Vojic v. Ascent & VR 1008
Status: Pending
WRIT
Claims that members of the strata council, in September 1998, engaged unqualified and unskilled tradesmen to carry out repairs to the common property, specifically the roof, rendering the warranty on the roof void and causing extensive damage to the property of the Plaintiff's with such damage progessing until the present time.
_______________________________________________________
 
Date Commenced: August 9, 2002
Action #: CA30020
Registry: Court of Appeal
Parties: Oldaker v. VR 1008
Status: Pending
Claims Madam Justice Boyd erred in dismissing Motion of July 10, 2002 and seeks an Order that the $45,000 Special Levy of March 28 for purposes of increasing the Operating Fund of the Strata Corporation be declared null and void.
_______________________________________________________
 
Date Commenced: October 11, 2002
Action #: CA30176
Registry: Court of Appeal
Parties: Oldaker v. VR 1008
Status: Pending
Claims Madam Justice Dorgan erred in extnding the appointment of the
Administrator to January 31, 2003 and in assessing Special Levies of $25,548.15 and $40,000 for deficit recapture and roof/balcony repairs respectively.
_______________________________________________________
 
Date Commenced: ?
Action #: S78059
Registry: Supreme - New West.
Parties: VR 1008 v. Oldaker, Bank of Montreal
Status: ?
Foreclosure.
_______________________________________________________
 
Date Commenced: January 6, 2003
Action #: S78060
Registry: Supreme - New West.
Parties: Vr 1008 v. Hamilton
Status: ?
Foreclosure.
_______________________________________________________
 
Date Commenced: April 29, 2003
Action #: SO32263
Registry: Supreme
Parties: Monk v. Ascent, Crowe, Owens, Lewis and Coldwell Banker
Status: ?
_______________________________________________________
 
Date Commenced: September 19, 2003
Action #: L032653
Registry: Supreme - Vanc.
Parties: Monk, Oldaker, Vojic v. Coleman, Dudra, Hirjee, Fetherling, Katerchuk, Fearon, Mason
Status: ?
_______________________________________________________
 
Date Commenced: December 9, 2003
Action #: CA032653
Registry: Appeal - Vanc.
Parties: Monk, Hamilton, Oldaker, Vojic & Vojic v. Ball, Bramham, Campos, Carriere, Coleman, Erdman, Halva, Lewis & Lewis
Status: ?
_______________________________________________________
 
Date Commenced: ?
Action #: SO40132
Registry: Supreme - Vancouver
Parties: Gonzalez & Gonzalez v. VR 1008, Lewis
Status: ?
________________________________________________________
 
Date Commenced: ?
Action #: S040133
Registry: Supreme - Vanc.
Parties: Gonzalez & Gonzalez v. Ascent, Roach
Status: ?

Frances Court: Architects lose court application

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF BRITISH COLUMBIA

Citation:

Coast Foundation v. Currie,

 

2003 BCSC 1781

Date: 20031204
Docket: S74797

Registry: New Westminster

Between:

Coast Foundation Society (1974) and
British Columbia Housing Management Commission

Plaintiffs

And

John Currie Architect Inc., John Robert Currie,
Van Maren Construction Co. Ltd.,
Triwest Development Group Limited and
S.W. Technical Services Ltd.

Defendants

 

 

 

Before: The Honourable Mr. Justice Groberman

Reasons for Judgment

Counsel for the Plaintiffs

James M. Coady
Stella D. Frame

Counsel for John Currie Architect Inc. and John Robert Currie

Craig A. Wallace
Timothy L. Wong

Date and Place of Trial/Hearing:

September 11-12, 2003

 

Vancouver, B.C.

 

[1]            The defendants John Currie and John Currie Architect Inc. (collectively referred to in these reasons as the “Architects”) bring this application under Rule 18A.  They seek a ruling that some of the claims against them are barred by a limitation clause in a contract for architectural services.  The plaintiffs resist the application, arguing, firstly, that the issue ought not to be determined under Rule 18A, and secondly, that if it is determined, it ought to be determined in their favour.

[2]            The plaintiff Coast Foundation is a non-profit society dedicated to improving the lives of persons suffering from mental illness.  It operates a 34-unit apartment complex, known as Frances Court, constructed in 1988 and 1989 with the aid of funding from the plaintiff Commission.  The building has developed a leaky envelope and requires extensive repairs.  The defendants are the designers and builders of Frances Court.

The Issue Sought to be Determined

[3]            Mr. Currie was the designer of the apartment complex.  On September 6, 1988, he entered into a written agreement with the Coast Foundation in the “Canadian Standard Form of Agreement Between Client and Architect”.  That form of agreement is endorsed by the Committee of Canadian Architectural Councils, an umbrella organization made up of the professional associations of architects in each of the common-law provinces and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.  Clauses 3.9.1 and 3.9.6 of the contract read as follows:

3.9.1. … [T]he Client agrees that any and all claims which he has or hereafter may have against the Architect in any way arising out of or related to the Architect’s duties and responsibilities pursuant to this agreement (hereinafter referred to in this Article 3.9 as “claims” or “claim”), whether such claims sound in contract or in tort, shall be limited to the amount of $250,000.00 each claim ….

3.9.6  The Architect’s liability for all claims of the Client arising out of this agreement shall absolutely cease to exist after a period of six (6) years from the date of:

(a)      Substantial Performance of the Work,

and following the expiration of such period, the Client shall have no claim whatsoever against the Architect. ….

The plaintiff Commission has taken an assignment of the plaintiff Foundation’s rights under the contract.

[4]            The case at bar is, I am told, one of a number of cases involving leaky buildings constructed with funding from the plaintiff Commission and designed by architects under materially identical contracts.  While the current application is not a formal “test case”, it is apparent that the decision of the court in this case could affect a number of other actions, as well.

[5]            The six-year limitation period under clause 3.9.6 expired well before the plaintiff commenced this action.  If the clause is applicable to the plaintiffs’ claims, then the claims are barred.  The applicant defendants say that clause 3.9.6 encompasses both claims in contract and tort, and that it covers both the claims of the Foundation and the claims of the Commission insofar as they are based on an assignment of the Foundation’s rights.

[6]            The plaintiffs, on the other hand, argue that the clause is not broad enough to encompass claims sounding in negligence.  In the alternative, they argue that the building failures evidence a fundamental breach of the contract, and that therefore the Architects cannot invoke the limitation clause.

The Issue in the Context of the Litigation

[7]            The current application concerns only the interpretation and application of the limitation clause.  Even if I determine that issue, there are many matters – including matters between the plaintiffs and the Architects – that will remain outstanding.

[8]            Some of the issues that are outside the scope of the current application are largely factual, and could probably be resolved by the court with of a small amount of further evidence.  There is, for example, an issue as to whether any part of the plaintiffs’ claims arises out of pre-contractual negligence of the Architects, and whether the contractual provision bars such claims.  Similarly, there is an issue as to whether any claim arises out of a warranty inspection alleged to have been conducted by the Architects outside the scope of the contract.  There is also an issue as to whether John Currie Architect Inc. is a successor of John Robert Currie for the purposes of the contract.

[9]            Other issues are more complex – these include the claim of the plaintiff Commission that the Architects owe it a direct duty of care.  Any tort claim that the Commission may have against the Architects that does not arise by way of an assignment of the Foundation’s claims is beyond the scope of this summary trial.

[10]        Finally, the current application does not encompass the plaintiffs’ claims against the defendants other than the Architects.  This is particularly significant, as those other defendants allege contributory fault on the part of the Architects.  At trial, therefore, the court will have to assess the degree to which any damage is the Architects’ fault, even if the limitation clause absolves them of financial responsibility.

Rule 18A and the Determination of a Single Issue

[11]        Rule 18A allows a party to apply to the court for judgment, “either on an issue or generally”.  Rule 18A(8) and (11) set out the circumstances in which judgment may be given:

(8)   On an application heard before or at the same time as the hearing of an application under subrule (1), the court may

(b) dismiss the application under subrule (1) on the ground that

(i) the issues raised by the application under subrule (1) are not suitable for disposition under this rule, or

(ii) the application under subrule (1) will not assist the efficient resolution of the proceeding.

(11)  On the hearing of an application …, the court may

(a)  grant judgment in favour of any party, either on an issue or generally, unless

(i)   the court is unable, on the whole of the evidence before the court on the application, to find the facts necessary to decide the issues of fact or law, or

(ii) the court is of the opinion that it would be unjust to decide the issues on the application ….

[12]        A summary trial can serve as an efficient manner of disposing of issues or claims in appropriate circumstances.  Where the court has the entire claim before it on a summary trial application, it will generally endeavour to grant judgment unless credibility issues preclude the fair adjudication of matters on affidavit evidence.  There are, of course, exceptions.  Discoveries, for example, may not have progressed to the point where the court is satisfied that each side has had an opportunity to uncover all of the evidence that might be important to its case.  In such a case, it might be unjust to grant judgment: Bank of British Columbia v. Anglo-American Cedar Products Ltd. (1984), 57 B.C.L.R. 350 (S.C.).  The court will also decline to grant judgment where the complexity of the issues is such that the court is unable to absorb all of the evidence and legal argument in the compressed time available within the Rule 18A procedure: Chen v. Chen, 2002 BCSC 906, 22 C.P.C.(5th) 73.

[13]        The question of when the court ought to give judgment on an issue, as opposed to on the claim generally, is more complex.  The court is justifiably reluctant to decide cases in a piecemeal fashion.  In addition to all of the concerns that arise when the entire claim is before the court, there is a multitude of others.  The result is that the court must exercise considerable caution before coming to the conclusion that it should grant judgment on an issue in a summary trial.

[14]        Where a Rule 18A application requires determination of a difficult issue of law that might not need to be resolved in order to decide the claim at trial, for example, the court may conclude that the appropriate development of the common law demands restraint:  Bacchus Agents (1981) Ltd. v. Phillipe Dandurand Wines Ltd., 2002 BCCA 138, 164 B.C.A.C. 300.

[15]        The court must also be wary of making determinations on particular issues on a Rule 18A application when those issues are inexorably intertwined with other issues that are to be left for determination at trial: Prevost v. Vetter, 2002 BCCA 202, 210 D.L.R. (4th) 649; inter-relatedness of issues is not always obvious, and caution is necessary whenever a party seeks judgment on an issue as opposed to judgment generally under Rule 18A: B.M.P. Global et al v. Bank of Nova Scotia, 2003 BCCA 534, [2003] B.C.J. No. 2383.

[16]        It must be borne in mind that the primary purpose of Rule 18A is the efficient resolution of disputes.  Where the court does not consider that the determination of an issue under Rule 18A will assist in the efficient resolution of the dispute, it ought not to make the determination.

[17]        There are at least two aspects to be considered in gauging the efficiency of the summary trial process.  First, this court must be concerned about the allocation of its own resources: North Vancouver (District) v. Lunde (1998), 60 B.C.L.R. (3d) 201 at 212 (C.A.) (paragraph 33).  Summary trial applications that will not, even if successful, reduce the length of trial, should, in general, be discouraged.  The court must recognize the reality that judicial time is a scarce resource.

[18]        Second, the court must consider the efficiency of a partial determination from the standpoint of the litigation itself.  Piecemeal decision-making is rarely an efficient manner in which to resolve a dispute.  It raises the possibility of multiple appeals on individual issues, and this will generally impede rather than hasten the orderly determination of the action.

Ought this Issue to Decided on a Summary Trial

[19]        The issue presented by the Architects is an important one from their standpoint.  In my view, the evidence on this application is sufficient to determine it.  While there would be many issues outstanding even after the limitation issue was decided, I would not be dissuaded from making a determination simply because, even if I resolved the limitation issues, other issues would remain.

[20]        I am also of the view that the limitation issue, at least on its face, is not so closely related to the other issues in the litigation that it could not be decided in isolation.

[21]        I am, however, mindful that the raison d’être for Rule 18A is the efficient determination of claims.  While this court performs an increasing proportion of its work through the summary trial procedure, it remains the case that the trial process is generally more conducive to a full and just determination of disputes.  The summary procedure’s chief advantages are speed and efficiency.  Where the court is not convinced that the determination of an issue will be a speedy or efficient step towards resolution of the dispute, it ought not to accede to an application under Rule 18A.

[22]        In this case, neither party suggests that a determination of the limitation issue in a summary trial will reduce the total amount of court time needed to resolve the dispute.  There will be no reduction in the evidence presented at trial, and any reduction in the time needed for argument will be more than offset by the court time taken up in arguing the issue in the summary trial application.

[23]        The limitation issue is sufficiently important that it is virtually certain that an appeal would be taken – indeed, it is quite likely that an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada would be pursued after a judgment of the Court of Appeal.  In the meantime, the trial of the action will either be postponed, or proceed under an awkward uncertainty as to what issues will ultimately need to be decided.

[24]        The Architects argue that this court, by determining the limitation issue in advance of trial, will remove uncertainty, and facilitate settlement.  I have no doubt that a decision on the limitations issue would change the dynamics of settlement negotiations.  Whether it would facilitate or complicate settlement is a matter on which I can only speculate.  I accept that the court should, in appropriate cases, consider the prospect of settlement as a factor in determining whether to deal with a substantive issue on a Rule 18A application: Inspiration Management Ltd. v. McDermid St. Lawrence Ltd. (1989), 36 B.C.L.R.(2d) 202 (C.A.).  In many cases, however, it would simply be unjust to allow one party, over the objection of another, to have a single issue determined in advance of all others, in the hope that it will enhance its bargaining position.

[25]        In the present case, I am not persuaded that a determination of the limitation issue in advance of the trial would be an efficient procedure to follow.  Instead, it is more likely to result in a delayed trial, quite possibly with an awkward presentation of evidence and argument.

[26]        In the circumstances, I have concluded that determination of the limitation issue on a summary trial will not assist the efficient resolution of the proceeding.  In my view, it would be unjust to decide the limitation issue on this application.  The Architect’s motion under Rule 18A is dismissed; the limitation issue should be determined at trial.

“H.M. Groberman, J.”
The Honourable Mr. Justice H.M. Groberman

James Cheng, Architect, designed leaky condos

2003.12.03

The Editor, Business in Vancouver

500-1155 West Pender St.

Vancouver, B.C. V6E 2P4

Dear Sir:

Peter Mitham’s profile of Architect James Cheng (Building success, BIV, December 2-8, 2003, p. 18) was disturbing because of both what it reported and failed to report.

Confidence in the profession is diminished when we learn that Cheng “accepts the common wisdom that architects don’t come into their own till they hit 50” and that he had to make his “fair share of mistakes” along the way.

The stomach churns when reading that Harvard-educated Cheng “believes the essential key to successful projects is a strong relationship with stakeholders” and that Cheng’s “team” consists of “the developer, the marketing people and ourselves”, with no apparent reference to purchasers and users.

Mitham reports that Cheng’s design for townhomes on the Fairview slopes “set the pace for architectural style in the steep-sloping neighborhood” and Cheng’s mission is stated as “To design buildings that fit their environment”.

Contrary to the interests of journalistic balance and the “integrity” emphasized by Cheng, BIV failed to report that thousands of homes on the Fairview slopes, including some designed by Cheng, suffered premature building envelope failure with horrendous implications for the owners.

The praise heaped on Cheng by Vancouver city planner Larry Beasley and Cardiff Professor John Punter stands in sharp contrast to the real-world soggy experience of condo owners who expected well-designed and well-built durable shelter for our wet environment, not award-winning, leaky rotten condos complete with indoor mushroom gardens designed by underage architects like Cheng.

James Balderson, PhD

COLCO: The Coalition of Leaky Condo Owners

www.myleakycondo.com

Tel 604-739-4190 Cel 604-785-0701

P.S. See, for example, Strata Plan LMS 1134 v. Cheng, 2003 BCSC 1776.

Business in Vancouver Dec 2-8, 2003 Issue 736

James Cheng

Building success

James Cheng has applied training from Harvard and teaching from Arthur Erickson to the development of one of Vancouver's most influential architectural firms

By Peter Mitham

Mission To design buildings that fit their environment.

Assets Training at Harvard and experience with Arthur Erickson.

Yield A 25-year-old company whose over 35 towers have helped define the Vancouver skyline and is winning contracts in Seattle and China.

Looking toward Vancouver from his offices in Mount Pleasant, architect James Cheng expresses satisfaction with the city's development since the early 1980s.

"Vancouver has had an amazing 20-year-ride," he said.

Cheng isn't surprised that many of the new projects being built downtown have residential components. He cited a recent survey reporting that downtown vehicle traffic has decreased over the past five years. Meanwhile, the downtown population has increased.

"People are now walking more or riding their bikes to work more, without driving their cars," he said. "Which is a totally different trend to the typical North American city. So it's good. It means a lot of our thinking about a sustainable city is actually working for Vancouver."

After 25 years at the helm of James K.M. Cheng Architects Inc., the 56-year-old Cheng should know: He's had a hand in many of the developments and helped shape the city's skyline.

His biggest projects are yet to come: The 42-storey Shaw Tower now under construction on the Vancouver waterfront will be completed next year, and the One Harbour Green condominium development and 600-foot mixed-use tower at 1120 West Georgia are set for occupancy in 2005 and 2006.

The high-profile projects have also drawn the attention of clients in the U.S. and China.

"Vancouver has become such a recognized model city that we're getting offers of work from all over," he said, Cheng noted projects in California and Seattle, where he does work for Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's investment firm Vulcan Inc., which is active in real estate development. Last month, Cheng was scouting projects in Dallas, and he recently won a project in Beijing that will have about two million square feet of commercial space and one million square feet of residential.

The reputation and business his work has brought him have been hard-won. Cheng accepts the common wisdom that architects don't come into their own till they hit 50.

"You have to do your share of kitchen renovations," he said. "You have to hone your skills. You don't become a good architect overnight. You have to make your fair share of mistakes."

The Hong Kong-born Cheng worked under Arthur Erickson between 1973 and 1976 after graduating from the University of Washington. The opportunity allowed him to escape becoming a U.S. citizen and being a potential Vietnam War draftee. It also gave him a head start.

"When I was working for Erickson, it was very exciting because that's when the Robson Law Courts were being built," Cheng recalled. "I learned a lot working for Erickson."

Cheng left to study design at Harvard in 1976 but returned to Vancouver with his degree in 1978. He taught part-time at UBC and seized an opportunity to get involved in a joint venture with Romses Kwan and Associates in a design competition for the Chinese Cultural Centre at 50 East Pender Street in Vancouver. The proposal won, and Cheng was in business.

"I gained some recognition within the community," he said. "From there I started doing small houses, apartments, and gradually won bigger and bigger commissions."

Awards and media coverage buoyed the firm's reputation and drew repeat business and referrals, which meant Cheng never had to look for work. The firm now posts annual billings of over $3 million, making it one of the Lower Mainland's top 10 architectural firms.

Cheng's design for the Willow Court townhomes at 730 West 7th Avenue on the Fairview Slopes set the pace for architectural style in the steep-sloping neighbourhood.

Cardiff University professor John Punter praises Cheng's Fairview Slopes work in his recent book The Vancouver Achievement: Urban Planning and Design, but says Cheng's most significant work was at the 888 Beach Avenue apartment and townhome complex.

Calling 888 Beach "one of the most important pieces of urban design in postwar Vancouver," Punter notes that the development handles "very high density with consummate ease."

For his part, Cheng says developments have to work not only in themselves but also in their contexts.

"We believe, as a firm, in the integration of architecture design, urban design, interior design and landscape, all as one," he said. "When you want to create an environment for people, you can't miss one or the other."

In the case of the Shaw tower, plazas, waterscapes, internal atriums and gardens will add to the structure's livability, while innovative landscaping and an outdoor exhibition space for public art are proposed for 1120 West Georgia.

The West Georgia design is attractive enough that Urban Fare is considering it for a new West End store.

That kind of response from users is what makes Cheng successful, said Larry Beasley, Vancouver City's co-director of planning.

Beasley said major developments often maximize density at the expense of livability but Cheng designs projects that appeal to a variety of users.

"He's designing these urban buildings in a very attractive, comfortable way so that consumers will spontaneously choose them," Beasley said.

He added that Cheng's buildings also set the tone for other developments.

"A lot of architects can do buildings that are rational in and of themselves," he said. "What not a lot of contemporary architects do very well is respond to a context or create a context for other buildings. ... [Cheng] really does design with a sense of the whole neighbourhood."

Cheng visits older sites when he travels for inspiration regarding current design challenges, and at home he relaxes with music and loves art, particularly the work of Vancouver artist Gordon Smith.

He believes the essential key to successful projects is a strong relationship with stakeholders rather than particular creative influences.

"My clients are very good. Most of them would not even buy a site without talking to us first," he said. "The way we like to do it is to form a team - the developer, the marketing people and ourselves."

"To build a good team, to build a good working relationship, integrity is the most important thing," Cheng said.