Cesar's Palace & The Vancouver Art GalleryFriday, March 02, 2012
|Jo-Ann on the Farmer Building roof|
Friday night, Rosemary told me the news that she had been at Sears downtown and that there were signs indicating that Sears was going to close the store.
When I heard t his immediately thought of my friend Abraham Rogatnick who was adamant that the Vancouver Art Gallery should stay. He said here that it was feasible to dig down, under the gallery and find lots of space for storage. With that digging the horrible rock waterfall/fountain on Georgia would be removed and Arthur Erickson would smile down from heaven. He hated the fountain.
|Las Babas del Diablo|
From Max Wyman a couple of years ago I had found out that the city and the gallery had made a feasibility study in which they would have sub-leased from Sears the upper floor of the department building and build a bridge connecting it to the gallery. This was dropped as architect Michael Geller mentions in his blog for Friday March 2 here because of the problem of dealing (then) with the 30 years lease with Sears.
Now with Sears leaving it's an unexpected gift that must have both Abraham Rogatnick and Arthur Erickson dancing on a cloud. “What a marvelous opportunity,” Rogatnick is probably saying. Rogatnick would point out that the Pompidou Centre in Paris is a big box, too.
|La Babas del Diablo|
I remember Rogatnick telling me, before he died, that if the VAG used the upper floor of the Sears building Doug Coupland could perhaps park a Boeing 747 sized conceptual art piece with room to spare.
For me the building has for many years been my favourite in town for very selfish reasons. For one the huge white wall on Robson would shine in the afternoon into my studio, on the third floor of the Farmer Building (being torn down as I write this). Once when Arthur Erickson was posing in the studio I pointed out the building across the street and asked, “Is this the most famous building in town built by a world renowned architect?” He looked at me perhaps thinking that I was making some joke on his own buildings in the city. But he knew what I was about and said, “Yes, Cesar Pelli.”
|Las Babas del Diablo|
There may be some confusion here as Argentine-born Pelli had previously been an associate architect for Eero Saarinen and shortly after when phase one of the Vancouver project that would include the Eaton’s (before Sears) building and the two black towers on Georgia, he was working as a designer for Gruen Associates in Los Angeles. The building might be a Pelli design (and I will not retract information here that I am indeed Argentine born, too) or perhaps to Victor Gruen himself.
I am certainly no architect nor am I an urbanist. I do not understand the finances involved here and how the city and the VAG could spring the money to buy the property from Cadillac Fairview. I have no idea who owns the land. I do know that the city has given the VAG a year to raise the money to perhaps build across from the main post office at Larwill Park. I do know that both Kathleen Bartels and Michael Audain have their hearts set on a new building designed by a Gehry-clone-with-wings like the museum in Bilbao.
But I do know that a box, a rectangular box can store more stuff and display it well. That the Sears building has escalators and elevators is a real bonus. I can see here a film theatre for art movies, an auditorium for lectures on art or for lunchtime concerts. And yes Doug Coupland could park a 747 here and maybe if a hole were dug through the ceilings of all the floors a real live Rodney Graham tree could be suspended downwards.
As Geller points out in his blog the re-use (or re-fit as architect Henry Hawthorn describes it) is surely less expensive than tearing it all down and adding to that the cost of building something new at Larwill Park.
|La Babas del Diablo|
Expanding the VAG to the Sears building would ensure for many years to come that our city core would remain where it belongs.
Now if we could only tell the folks of UBC to move back to their fantasy/endowment land, the space they would vacate, would again be what it used to be, a thriving centre for urban conferences and lectures (even some given by Erickson I recall fondly). Nobody has yet said what Abraham Rogatnick, so often told me, “UBC has killed Robson Square, and Kathleen Bartels wants to go to a better job somewhere else with a new gallery building as her Nexus passport.”