Goulds architect’s work attracts celebs and awards

Steve Bartlett sbartlett@thetelegram.com
Published on August 10, 2011
The pool skylight and dining alcove in one of the suites at The Keefer. Submitted photo

An upscale Vancouver hotel designed by an architect from Goulds has become a magnet for Hollywood stars and cameras.

The Keefer and its bar has attracted the likes of Woody Harrelson, Jack Black, Steve Martin and Liam Neeson since it opened in December 2009.

As well, actress Reese Witherspoon shot scenes there for the upcoming movie, “This Means War,” and the American crime drama “The Killing” filmed parts of a recent episode in the hotel.

“Owen Wilson, when he came to shoot a movie, he stayed there for two months. And when Rhianna came, she rented it out for an evening,” Christopher Woodford said.

He was lead architect for Gair Williamson Architects on the building, which was originally intended to be a high-end apartment complex but became a four-suite hotel after turbulence hit the housing market.

Woodford says the Chinatown structure was 100 years old and had been vacant for about 30 years when he began working on it.

It was on the cusp of being condemned and required a lot of intervention.

They added a storey, which stabilized the building. The new floor features a distinctive roof-top pool with a transparent bottom that lets you look down into the suite below.

While The Keefer has lured Hollywood types since its completion in December 2009, it’s also generated a lot of recognition and media interest.

It won the 2010 Lieutenant-Governor of B.C. Award in Architecture and a 2011 City of Vancouver Heritage Award.

And it’s been featured in numerous publications, including Azure magazine and Condé Nast Traveller, which named it one of the world’s top new hotels.

“Things have worked out fantastic,” Cam Watt, The Keefer’s owner, writes in an email.

“The building has gotten a lot of attention which, as an owner, is very important from a business point of view. It's also nice to be connected to something that gets so (many) kudos.”

The kudos have past The Keefer’s door for Woodford, who as a teen was struck by the differences in rural and urban architecture while taking the bus to Bishops College from the Goulds.

The Cordova Street Stables — for which he was project architect — won the 2011 Lieutenant-Governor of BC Award in Architecture and another 2011 City of Vancouver Heritage Award, as well.

Woodford — who stresses he was part of team on the redesigns — says the approach for both was to preserve the spirit of the buildings, as they were already part of the urban fabric.

“Rather than take that piece of the city away, we wanted to give it new purpose, new life.”

He says he’d be interested in taking on some projects back home, particularly in downtown St. John’s,  where he redesigned a house on Harvey Road in 2006.

“Chris has tons of talent,” Watt says. “I understand (The Keefer) was his first big project and the fact that he could pull off such a complicated renovation speaks to his abilities.”

Weblink: www.chriswoodforddesign.com


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