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.