Architects of new Vancouver Art Gallery hope facility will be a “catalyst”

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      The architects of the new Vancouver Art Gallery planned for West Georgia and Cambie streets aim to emulate the incorporation of civic space that has made the current site an important gathering place in the city.

      According to Christine Binswanger, senior partner at Herzog & de Meuron, public space around the new facility is “a very important aspect of the new Vancouver Art Gallery”.

      “We have to do something that is highly attractive public space,” she told the audience at a sold-out event at the Vogue Theatre Wednesday evening.

      “We must make a place that is an interesting place for anybody in the city. The Tate, of course, has been a successful example of this, as much outside as inside.”

      The design architects are also hoping the new facility will produce similar results for the city that the Tate Modern, one of the most famous museums in Herzog & de Meuron’s design portfolio, did for London.

      “Museums are catalysts,” Binswanger said. “They do change cities, they do change neighbourhoods.”

      “In the case of the Tate, the whole South Bank has become a new city since this museum was actively planted there, and we hope that something similar could happen here.”

      The word “catalyst” was used numerous times throughout the event Wednesday, which was aimed at offering insight into Herzog & de Meuron’s design approach.

      “The new Vancouver Art Gallery can play a major role in extending the heart of the downtown core by being a catalyst to further activate the six blocks between our old and new building and serve as a connector to very important communities such as Gastown, Chinatown, Yaletown, and East Van,” Vancouver Art Gallery director Kathleen Bartels said in her introduction of the speakers.

      She noted the design of the new purpose-built facility will be the first Canadian project for the firm.

      Other facilities designed by the Basel, Switzerland-based architecture firm include the De Young Museum in San Francisco, the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York, and the Pérez Art Museum in Miami.

      Herzog & de Meuron associate Simon Demeuse said the new Vancouver Art Gallery isn’t the only change anticipated for the "cultural corridor" that already includes facilities such as the current art gallery site, the main library, and the CBC headquarters. He noted the potential removal of the viaducts could also contribute to the future of the area.

      The architects are in the early stages of the conceptual design for the new facility, which is expected to be unveiled in 2015. Bartels called the release of the design “one of the most critical elements” in the gallery's campaign to secure funds for the project. She said the design architects will be working with recently selected local architecture firm Perkins+Will.

      While the Herzog & de Meuron representatives gave few hints as to what elements could make it into the design, they indicated during a Q & A session that the educational space planned for the new gallery will be incorporated into the central design of the building.

      “Typically we think that education wings are not such an interesting concept,” said Binswanger.

      “We prefer to have education spaces happen in parallel to the normal use, next to the normal visitors…I hope we can have these education activities being pretty central in the building.”

      When asked what local designs have caught their eye, Demeuse cited the work of Arthur Erickson as “inspiring” to them.

      “That is very interesting how some of the principles in his architecture are actually coming from maybe more indigenous architecture that has been around for centuries here, which is also something that we’re starting to familiarize ourselves with,” he said.

      Demeuse and Binswanger are now headed to Haida Gwaii—part of their B.C. orientation, which over several trips to the region has also included visits to artist studios on Salt Spring Island, and time spent throughout Vancouver neighbourhoods and parks.

      Herzog & de Meuron was selected from a shortlist of five firms for the design of the expanded, 300,000-square-foot facility planned for the city-owned Larwill Park site.



      out at night

      Oct 3, 2014 at 12:24pm

      Our downtown sort of peters out right about Library Square and Queen E. Theatre. Won't it be great to see that next few blocks activated and animated!