The Vancouver Art Gallery & Its FutureFriday, September 03, 2010
Thomas Zimmerman -Architect
The Vancouver Art Gallery and its Future
Much has been made, of late, of the necessity of the Vancouver Art Gallery to move from its present location and into a new modern gallery by a ‘Star Architect’. As a young architectural student in the 1970’s, I worked with Arthur Erickson building study models of the three block project which included the present Vancouver Art Gallery. Also, as a member of the VAG for the past 30 years, I find it behooves me to question many of the unconvincing claims and arguments for abandoning its present outstanding facilities and moving to a less prominent location. I would like to advance a series of solutions, many of which have been discussed and debated for several years.
Simply, the alternative to moving is to expand the existing Vancouver Art Gallery in phases and add a smaller, yet significant, new Contemporary Art Gallery on its present site.
The VAG should continue to take advantage of the finest, most accessible publicly owned property in the geographic and social ‘heart of downtown Vancouver. It would be foolish not to do so. This incomparable, high profile site is in proximity to the major downtown Vancouver hotels and transit systems. As well, its existing facilities are housed in a building already internationally acknowledged to be an architectural ‘work of art’.
The VAG can save significant development and construction costs by phased expansion in excess of 30,000 square meters without relocating to a less prominent site and into a massive and expensive new building.
This can be achieved by:
1. Retaining the existing purpose built gallery and refurbishing the existing underutilized annex adjacent Hornby Street.
2. Create a major expansion doubling or tripling the size of the existing gallery by utilizing the space below the open plaza adjacent Georgia Street. Design the “Plaza Gallery” as an iconic new element in the Vancouver cityscape which refurbishes and enhances a great urban public open space.
3. Refurbish the existing spaces under Robson Square Plaza and adjacent the sunken courtyard which were originally conceived to be ultimately connected to the present gallery.
4. Finally and perhaps most importantly: create a new, world class, iconic, purpose built Contemporary Art Gallery above grade adjacent Robson Square Plaza. This provides an opportunity to create a major new entrance court off Robson Street. This grand space would be connected to the existing lobby and link all existing and new galleries.
This realizes the full potential of the existing site and holds many other potential benefits for the VAG including, but not limited to:
a. Allows for the economies of phased construction funded over time as necessary.
b. Maintains the functioning of the present gallery during construction.
c. Ensures retention of all heritage facades.
d. Allows for the full realization of Robson Square Plaza and access to the Robson Street pedestrian corridor.
e. Allows for the upgrading and modernization of the Public Plaza off Georgia, Hornby and Howe Streets.
By the full, creative and visionary utilization of the present site, the Vancouver Art Gallery can achieve its goals of expansion and development of a significant, world class, iconic art gallery. All its space, operational and image requirements can be met while maintaining its present premier location . As well, this can be achieved at considerable cost savings to the Art Gallery, the City of Vancouver, and the Province.
To read more about my analysis, views and images on this subject, please read Thomas Zimmerman - Architect
I first met architect Thomas Zimmerman about 20 years ago during the pool hall craze in Vancouver. I was assigned by one of the city magazines to photograph people who were pool aficionados. Here you see a much younger Zimmerman with his custom pool cue case. I insisted in using this picture over the one that he sent me, a much more current one, simply because I like this photograph!
Abraham Rogatnick's Manifesto
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