Vancouver Art Gallery announces five architectural firms as finalists for design of new building

Five architectural firms have been short-listed by the Vancouver Art Gallery for the design of its future home planned for Larwill Park. 

The five firms were chosen following an open request for qualifications process issued in September 2013, from a pool of 75 candidates.

The finalists are Diller Scofidio + Renfro from New York City, Herzog & de Meuron from Basel, Switzerland, KPMB Architects from Toronto, SANAA from Tokyo, and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects from New York.

Vancouver Art Gallery director Kathleen Bartels called the announcement of the short-listed candidates "a significant moment" in the gallery's plans for a new facility.

"We’re just really excited that we’re at this stage," she told the Straight by phone. "It’s been part of a long process, and there’s a lot of process ahead, but this is certainly an important step, and to be able to then select a design firm in the spring will be critically important."

Last April, Vancouver city council voted unanimously in favour of leasing the Larwill Park site at Cambie and Georgia streets for a new, purpose-built Vancouver Art Gallery.

That lease is conditional on the art gallery securing $100 million from the federal government and $50 million from the province by April 30, 2015. The new facility is expected to cost between $300 and $350-million.

Bartels said the art gallery will not be making a formal request to senior governments until it is further along in the design phase of the new facility.

"The launch of the public side of the campaign, that won’t happen for some time," she said. "A critical aspect of that is engaging the design architect...people can actually see what it might look like, and then of course you think of naming opportunities."

The 75 submissions received by the gallery came from 16 countries, including seven Canadian firms and three from Vancouver. Bartels noted the five finalists have all done major museum projects.

“I think all of them show outstanding design leadership and the highest achievement in design when you look at their projects," she said.

Some of the candidates' design projects include the Lincoln Centre for Performing Arts in New York by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the Tate Modern in London by Herzog & de Meuron, the Gardiner Museum in Toronto by KPMB Architects, the Louvre-Lens Museum in France by SANAA , and the American Folk Art Museum in New York by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects. 

The art gallery will complete in-person interviews with each of the short-listed candidates, and is expected to announce the final architect this spring. 

Comments (19) Add New Comment
Keep It Local
WOW! Seems a shame that they could not find a single firm from VANCOUVER and only one from CANADA!!!!!!!
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Janis Brass
I think that the choice of not one firm from Vancouver, let alone Canada is unexceptable. Go back to the drawing board! VAG should not get any government money for this project. VAG keeps sending begging letters for me to rejoin or give them money, this decision reinforces my refusal.
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See You Nex Tues.
Either H&deM or SAANA is going to shred it! And put Vancouver on the map with a world class landmark facility. For 3 1/2 hundies they better be hiring the best. Time for this city to break out of its backwater shell.
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boris moris
Canada should have lots of money for culture related capital investment but the bedrock corruption that defines Canada means there is little left over for culture or social justice. After the USA, Canada is one of the most corrupt countries on the planet. We virtually give away our resources to multinational companies and for this there HAS to be a quid pro quo for compliant politicians. How is it that Norway can charge huge royalties for its resources and the same multinationals are happy to pay it?

As for this particular project..I have little faith in the American Bartels and her band of grasping, social climbing fuckwits. This is all about ego and is a dreadful waste of money. With half the budget you could have 6 or more smaller galleries in every part of the city. With half the budget the VAG could actually own the smaller galleries AND the land they sit on and not be paying for a lease on the big piece of pretentious crap they want to build. This whole farce is a massive clusterfuck just waiting to backfire.
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Michael
...because what Vancouver *really* needs is another glass-and-steel ho-hum building, like what local architects seem expressly able to do.

Heaven forbid something might challenge people instead of catering to their comforts!
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Jane
What's wrong with an international design competition? The VAG is going about this completely the wrong way. An open competition with blind jury = design excellence.
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Hazlit
While I agree that the building decision SEEMS short-sighted it isn't. Vancouver wants to be world class and its art collection is keeping it back. Sadly a "brand name" firm with museum experience will be necessary to help fundraise for the new facility. This reduces the necessary fundraising amounts from purely local sources. In this respect the more international the better.

Now if only the ART itself were of the same international status we might be getting somewhere.
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MikeMyhre
Maybe I'd be excited for this news if I thought it was a good idea for them to move. Right now, the architecture of their current location is one of the only selling points of stepping foot in the VAG.

Their shows are periodically wonderful, but generally on condition that 2 of the other floors of the building are empty or full of easily arguably terrible art. It costs MORE than $20 to enter the building. While I know the reason superior galleries across the world are cheaper or free is because of incredible patronage and more funding, it would be helpful if they had an adjusted scale of price at the VAG. Like say only one show is on display, I don't want to pay the full $22 to go see ONE show. And I usually don't. But I have. And it's disappointing even if the show is good, because it's priced so high for so little compared to when all 3 floors are full.
But here's my reason for criticizing in a nutshell: If the VAG can't keep 3 measly floors filled, why do we need to build a new building to keep mostly empty? how about we focus on filling the building we have, even if it's with permanent collection stuff, before we start worrying about the space it's in. This is a cart before the horse situation if EVER I've heard one.
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Linda
The proposed location is an uninspiring dead-beat looking area. Lots more $$$ will have to be spend to upgrade to match a proposed "world-class" art gallery. But not to worry, all Vision and co-hoards have to do is increase annual taxes, reduce police funding and keep the homeless without homes. I agree with most writers - love the cart before the horse expression.
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Stephen
I like the Francis Rattenbury design of the current VAG building. I know I'm not alone in thinking we should leave well enough alone. Too bad no one on Council voted that way.

Am in agreement with MikeMyhre about the steepness of the admission price. Remember, though, that admission is free (by donation) on Tuesday evenings.

I enjoyed the Art Spiegelman exhibit last year.
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Emmy
Good luck to the Vancouver Art Gallery in their selection of a new facility. With over 10,000 items in their collection, they can only display about 300 items in the exhibition space. The current gallery is so small that their total exhibition area equals that of the largest exhibition room at the Guggenheim Bilbao.

The future site is certainly going to be convenient to transit users as the main entrance of Stadium Station is diagnonally opposite to the future site. As for the proposal of breaking up the Vancouver Art Gallery into a constellation of assorted facilities of across the Vancouver, it is an interesting proposal, but question who it is coming from. I do believe it came from real estate mogul Bob Rennie, and the only one who would benefit from it would be the myriad of real estate projects that he is marketing to locals.

Not all of us have the benefit to travel elsewhere to view art, and so I support the Vancouver Art Gallery and the other cultural institutions of this city to engage the audience with art and culture.
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stufar
The VAG has millions of dollars wasting away in the basement. VAG should only be an exhibition gallery - not one that spends limited funds buying art. We could have blockbuster shows and spectacular exhibitions if the VAG mandate was changed. I know this is not liked for the egos wanting a new play pen. There's enough art in the basement, that has never been exhibited, to have hundreds of exhibitions, so if you're not going to show it VAG should sell all that dusty artwork to finance their expenses.
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@micheal
Exactly.
These are some exciting firms!
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Alan Layton
MikeMyhre - Where did you get the $22 for a ticket to the VAG???? I just checked their website and the most expensive one is $17.85 including tax. Have you ever been to the gallery?

Regardless, I still think that building a new gallery in the proposed location (Larwill Park) is a big mistake. The current location is perfect as there is plenty of foot traffic due it being between two major shopping areas (Granville and Robson) as well as many restaurants and hotels, so it attracts a lot of people who just happened to be down there. In the new area there is nothing. There is no reason to go there other than to visit the gallery. If they need more space (and they do) then perhaps they can boot out UBC or other tenants on the lower, underused area and expand there.
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Alan Layton
Emmy - the current VAG is only a block to a block and a half from two Skytrain stations for two different lines, plus the main bus hub on Granville. It is very convenient for transit users.
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Emmy
Moreover, what of the physical limitations of the current Vancouver Art Gallery? There is limited exhibition and storage space for the Vancouver Art Gallery's inventory of 10,000+ artworks, and even if the Vancouver Art Gallery were to stay and expand in its present location, it doesn't deal with the fact that the present space was never meant to house an art gallery. The proposed underground space may work for small works of art, but what of traveling exhibitions that feature over sized art works, like a Richard Serra metal sculpture that can weigh up to two tons?

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Hazlit
How about keeping both locations? Is that out of the question? What about VAG 1 (Rattenbury building) for a permanent collection of international historical art. Since many older pieces are relatively small it would obviate some of the limitations of the old building.

For the Serra sculpture (which should probably be outdoors, but nevermind) see VAG 2 (new architects building) that would be devoted to changing exhibitions and could be purposely built as a museum.
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Art Encounters
Its a good post!
Art galleries are the best place where an artist can show his emotions and feelings within paintings.
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Suzanne
The VAG is at the heart of this city ~ it is a beautiful building and welcoming to tourists and those of us who live here. The VAG is a natural meeting place, to view art, to sit on the patio with a glass of wine, to protest, to celebrate. It has skytrain and bus links, loads of parking. The idea to move the gallery clearly comes from a mindset that is not focused on what is best for the city, the patrons, or the visitors, for no one in their right mind would push to move from this PERFECT location. If space is the issue, then perhaps a satellite gallery ~ if MoMA could make that work, so can VAG.
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