icona partner series: Placemark Design, unlocking the possibility of place


In the fourth installment of an ongoing series of partner profiles, icona shines the spotlight on their strategic partnership with Paul Fenske and Theo Finseth, Partners and Co-Founders at Placemark Design, a multi-disciplinary design, development, and planning studio based in Vancouver, BC. 

This collaborative partnership will ensure effective placemaking in neighborhoods such as Anmore South, and will help re-envision the community as one with diverse housing, commercial spaces, and public amenities; ultimately bolstering community vibrancy and environmental and economic sustainability.  

The Power of Partnerships

Icona was founded on a commitment to create places that matter - places that showcase world-class design, innovative materials and construction, advanced technology and engineering, thoughtful planning, and community engagement. Each member of the icona team is a leader in their respective field, and they all share a fundamental commitment to excellence whilst embodying the icona values of creativity, community, integrity, vision and tenacity. 

In this ongoing series, we showcase the strategic partnerships that enhance and strengthen our core team. Each partner is a globally recognized expert in their respective field, and they consult on areas such as landscape architecture, placemaking, environmental stewardship, technology, engineering, and recreation. 

Introducing Placemark Design

As the Anmore South project progresses into the next stage of development, our team at icona decided to add additional strength to the project by partnering with Paul Fenske and Theo Finseth of Placemark Design. Both are well-established urban planners equipped with a wealth of planning, development and design knowledge.

Paul Fenske is a storied planner with over three decades of planning and design experience. Initially starting his career as a landscape architect, Paul quickly recognized his desire to effect change and transform cities on a larger scale. He returned to UBC, completing his Masters in Planning at SCARP, the School of Community and Regional Planning. He then found a home at Ekistics Architecture, and was an instrumental part of the team for 22 years, working on over 130 large-scale projects including Burke Mountain, Predator Ridge, and Whistler’s Olympic Village.

It was at Ekistics that Paul would connect with Theo, a fellow urban planner driven to evoke change and create exceptional spaces. Theo recognized his passion for planning early on, graduating from UBC with a degree in Urban Studies. He grew his knowledge at various consulting firms, specializing in urban and city planning for both the private and public sector. He eventually found a home at Ekistics, where he collaborated with Paul, and together in 2022, the two planners branched off to found Placemark Design.

The Possibility of Place 

Paul and Theo founded Placemark Design with the philosophy that collaboration unlocks excellent design, which in turn unlocks the possibility of place. To bring this ideology to life, Paul and Theo established Placemark as a true multi-disciplinary design and development studio. Their team consists of skilled professionals who specialize in various aspects of the development process such as architecture, landscape design, real estate development, public engagement and marketing. 

Collaborative Approach 

Placemark Design lends their guidance to a wide range of projects that span various regions and provinces. While each project is different, their approach remains the same: to engage in a collaborative design process to understand the land, bridge various interests, and ultimately arrive at a shared vision. This process allows them to create tangible and experiential value for clients and the communities they live within.

Anmore South 

This collaborative approach is essential to icona and Placemark Design’s partnership, Anmore South. Located north of Port Moody and Coquitlam, Anmore South includes over 150 acres of undeveloped land overlapping the districts of Metro Vancouver and Anmore.

When icona engaged Placemark Design as an Anmore South partner, Paul and Theo recognized they could bring extensive value to the project. Both co-founders have strong track records of developing master plans that create harmony between community, people, and the land itself.

As with any project they take on, Placemark’s role with Anmore South is comprehensive and multi-faceted. They are responsible for overseeing the design and development of the site, and they focus extensively on community engagement, working alongside residents and the council to arrive at a shared vision. They strive to protect the natural and cultural heritage of the region, develop diverse housing, and create commercial spaces that will bolster the economy by providing places of employment. 

Establishing Community & Diverse Housing 

Placemark and icona are dedicated to developing a wide range of housing opportunities across Anmore South. This housing will also have the added benefit of alleviating the pressures of the current housing crisis being experienced across the province. The Placemark team attributes this crisis to 3 mini-crises: 

  1. Crisis of Cost, which refers to the continually escalating cost of homes across British Columbia. 
  2. Crisis of Form, which refers to the lack of housing diversity, and a shortage of housing forms in many communities.
  3. Crisis of Distribution, which refers to homes and amenities being inadequately distributed across the province. 

To effectively service the community, homes need to be available in various forms such as condos, townhomes, and freestanding homes, each of various sizes. They need to address accessibility requirements and feature a range of price points. By doing so, Anmore South can accommodate all stages in the lifecycle and provide effective housing for young couples, large families, single residents or empty nesters.

Maintaining Community Roots

Placemark understands the importance of implementing effective change whilst maintaining the community roots, culture and sense of place at Anmore South. Placemark starts each project by engaging and listening to residents to identify the strong values of the community. They then look at how to implement changes that can draw upon, and even strengthen those existing values. 

Over 150 acres in size, Anmore South has a sweeping scale and much regional significance. The current layout, along with the character and attributes of the land, will work well in supporting the community without compromising the things that make the community home. For Placemark, this is a rare opportunity to create an effective, collaborative community with housing supply, amenities, public environments and commercial spaces while also alleviating the pressures of the housing crisis. 

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