Vancouver Art Gallery selects Herzog & de Meuron as architect for new facility

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      The architecture firm behind buildings including the Tate Modern in London and the "Bird’s Nest" Olympic stadium in Beijing has been selected to design a new facility for the Vancouver Art Gallery.

      Herzog & de Meuron from Basel, Switzerland was chosen out of a shortlist of five firms for an expanded gallery planned for West Georgia and Cambie streets.

      Vancouver Art Gallery director Kathleen Bartels described the company as “one of the most successful architecture firms working in the museum realm in the world”.

      “They have done some of the most inspiring museum buildings, and that experience, that knowledge, of what it takes to build these very specialized institutions, is very critical to the success of this project,” she told the Straight by phone.

      Bruce Munro Wright, the chair of the art gallery’s board of trustees and architect selection committee, said the firm was chosen following a process of in-depth interviews and site visits to key buildings the shortlisted candidates had done. 

      “The key reasons, I would say, are their ability to create wonderful museums that place prominence on artists, and that respond both to our needs and reflect the rich cultural context of the surrounding community,” he said.

      “We want to make sure that our architect firm is not only very experienced in museum building, but also they’ll build a museum for Vancouver that celebrates the art-making and artists here, and is very much a Vancouver piece of architecture.”

      The expanded art gallery will be the first Canadian project for the firm, which has also designed buildings including the Schaulager in Basel, the Pérez Art Museum Miami, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

      Bartels said the VAG will be working with Herzog & de Meuron on coming forward with the conceptual design, which they except to have completed early next year.

      The new 300,000-square-foot facility planned for downtown Vancouver will be more than double the size of the gallery’s current home.

      “We want the new gallery to be open, accessible, porous, welcoming, to the broader community,” said Bartels.

      “It’s going to be in a very important urban context, and we want to ensure that we engage the community in the fullest sense possible and for the gallery to be a place where people want to be.”

      Last year, Vancouver city council voted to lease the Larwill Park site for a new, purpose-built art gallery. The lease is conditional on the art gallery securing $100 million from the federal government and $50 million from the province by April 30, 2015.

      Wright said the selection of the architect and the development of the conceptual design is “a huge part” of the gallery’s capital campaign. The public phase of the campaign will be launched with the release of the design.

      “Our board is incredibly excited about meeting this milestone,” he stated. “The new gallery is going to be a vital addition to the city and will enhance Vancouver’s cultural community and serve as a centre for cross-cultural dialogue and exchange in the visual arts.”

      Wright noted that the design architect will be working closely with an executive architect, who will be locally based.

      The five shortlisted candidates were chosen from 75 submissions from 16 different countries. Seven of the firms were Canadian, including shortlisted Toronto firm KPMB Architects. The other shortlisted companies were Diller Scofidio + Renfro, SANAA, and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects.

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      Apr 29, 2014 at 10:36am

      When do we get to see a design?

      BTW: do the Feds have $100 million?

      SPY vs SPY

      Apr 29, 2014 at 10:44am

      The Land that the City has leased to the Vancouver Art Gallery is worth $200 Million

      The design will most likely cost about $50 Million

      The article states that the VAG must raise $50 million from the Province and $100 Million from the Federal Government.

      Previous articles have stated the estimated cost of the new VAG will be in the $250 Million dollar range -

      Where is the remaining $100 Million going to come from????

      Remember that the new BC Convention Center went 100% over Budget ($450 Million)!!!!

      The new roof for BC Place (Gordon Campbell's Crown) was originally budgeted at about $100 Million and came in at $560 Million!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      I am Damn sure that the Building Contract will stipulate that the City of Vancouver and the City of Vancouver ONLY - will be financially responsible for any and all cost over runs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      This one Giant Monument to Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson's Ego and his Ultra Wealthy and Elitist Friends, will cost the City of Vancouver an additional $250 Million by the time it is finished - Oh Yah - Then there is the cost of buying all the ART to fill the place.

      My guess is that the final costs will be close to $$ ONE BILLION DOLLARS $$$

      Alan Layton

      Apr 29, 2014 at 12:01pm

      This will be a bigger White Elephant than the Port Mann bridge and the new stadium roof combined. Ego's are important if you want to do well, but giving up the best location in the city is an example of when an ego outgrows it's brain capacity. Perhaps those that are pushing for the new building should spend a nice Saturday on the VAG side of Robson Sq and watch the foot traffic going in to the VAG. Then go down to Larwill Park (the proposed site) and do the same.

      Nate Bryce

      Apr 29, 2014 at 12:31pm

      Hooray! this is excellent news. Now Vancouver has a chance at some significant architecture as well as a new gallery. This was the best possible choice.

      The VAG has raised 45 million from the private sector and 50 million from the BC government. They hope to raise the remaining 150 to 200 million from both private and governmental bodies. This will go a lot easier once the new design is revealed at the end of 2014.

      H&deM are the best choice because they don't have a signature style, instead they always respond to the locale with their designs. They are most probably the best architects working to day and definitely the best designers of museums in a very long time.

      2017 is Canada's 150th birthday and the Feds will be expected to celebrate with cultural funding. Now we just have to vote Harper out.

      Nate Bryce

      Apr 29, 2014 at 12:41pm

      re: Alan Layton: Nobody goes to Larwill Park because it is currently a parking lot. When it is a beautiful new gallery of great architectural significance, people will come by the busload.
      re: Spy v Spy: Why stop there? you were on a roll, why not project one trillion dollars?

      Raising the money won't be easy but if this gets built a lot of people will have to apologize for their crotchety naysaying. Of course, by then they will have reimagined that they were early supporters.

      Let Them Eat Cake

      Apr 29, 2014 at 1:45pm

      If this "art" is so great, how come it can only be displayed in buildings subsidized by millions of coercively extracted tax dollars? If it were actually worth something in the free market, wouldn't the free market support it?

      Public art is a symptom of decadent societies that have lost touch with the appropriate sort of governmental projects. As it says in Tristram Shandy, "de gustibus non est disputandum" --- "there is no disputing with hobby horses." This is to say, there is no accounting for taste. Except here we have a gross accounting for taste, to the tune of millions of dollars.

      This is in a city with lots of homelessness, a province with horrible child poverty, a nation with no access to education, except for the rich and those willing to burden themselves with debt.

      50 million would buy a lot of food for the malnourished people on the welfare/disability roles---but I guess that wouldn't provide anything "world class", would it?

      Good Gravy, I would even prefer condos---at least everyone needs a place to live. Everyone does not need the "art" that this thing will house.

      Nate Bryce

      Apr 29, 2014 at 2:23pm

      re: Let them Eat Cake: There are evening courses wherein you can learn about the history of art patronage. You think you don't need art but you really do, you especially really do.


      Apr 29, 2014 at 2:28pm

      Glad to see some movement forward!!! Hopefully the end result is as breathtaking as the birds nest stadium and the Tate Modern...and not as horrific as their website ...oh dear...

      SPY vs SPY

      Apr 29, 2014 at 4:11pm

      Dear Nate

      Question Nate -- will the Thousands of Millionaire's in this City and the Maybe 50 Billionaire's in BC guarantee any and all cost over runs that this "Plalais De Bullshit" will cost???? I think not!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

      If a vote were to be held where Citizens of Vancouver (ONLY) could voice their opinion as to what OTHER PROJECTS they would like instead of a $$ One Billion Dollar$$ Art Gallery there would be a huge list of very practical and useful suggestions.

      Hockey Rinks - Swimming Pools - Libraries - Hospital Emergency Wards (That do not require a 3 hour wait) - Publicly Owned Community Theaters - Parks

      Yah I know - I haven't said WORLD CALLS ONCE HAVE I - These suggestions would just make Vancouver more livable for those of us who already live here and will PAY THE BILLS FOR THIS MONUMENT TO ELITISM


      Apr 29, 2014 at 4:13pm

      I'm curious to see what will come of the new gallery, but the current home of the Vancouver art gallery is one of my favourite buildings in the city, in terms of functionality and aesthetic. It's a beautiful space and I understand that this move is serving as an expansion but it just kind of seems redundant.