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Old November 12th, 2006, 09:36 PM   #1
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[Article] New $300 million iconic Vancouver Art Gallery and cultural precinct

In Vancouver, a gallery on the move
At 75, the Vancouver Art Gallery has new energy under director Kathleen Bartels -- and it's seeking an iconic new building to match, ADELE WEDER writes

ADELE WEDER
Special to The Globe and Mail

VANCOUVER -- 'People like to give me a lot of credit, [but] I'm just one of a team," says Kathleen Bartels. The high-energy director of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Bartels is awash in credit and praise these days, for at this once-derided gallery, life is sweet. As the VAG enjoys a prolonged 75th birthday celebration, its brass are basking in the wake of successful exhibitions, critical acclaim and soaring gallery memberships. "It's a wonderful moment in its history," says Bartels.

Now, the VAG is poised to make its most biggest move ever: to a new downtown site and iconic new building.

A gallery committee, chaired by cultural philanthropist Michael Audain and advised by Henriquez Partners, has been looking at potential sites. Bartels herself remains tight-lipped about the impending move, stating that several possibilities are still being considered. But insiders say the decision is narrowing down to two parcels of city-owned land just a few blocks away. Bounded by Georgia, Dunsmuir, Hamilton and Beatty streets, they boast the aging Queen Elizabeth Theatre on one block and a parking lot on the other.

This is also the future epicentre of the city's proposed "cultural precinct." Along with the VAG, potential projects for the sites include a performing-arts complex, aboriginal national gallery, and fund-generating federal office tower. The city is still negotiating and crunching numbers, but insiders say the likely result will be a integration of office tower, performing arts complex and theatre, with the new Vancouver Art Gallery as the flagship project -- all to be shaped by a major-league international design competition that will be announced in six to 12 months.

The VAG board has committed to fundraising for its new home while the politically savvy Bartels deals with the premier and City Hall. "It's terrific that we have a province and a city that are supportive of cultural facilities," she says. Bartels is now hoping to make the long-delayed announcement by the end of the year. And she hopes work by Vancouver star artist Jeff Wall will be the inaugural exhibition.

Bartels arrived from Los Angeles's Museum of Contemporary Art five years ago, as the VAG was suffering from infighting and lack of direction. Since then, it has pulled off hugely successful exhibitions.

This year brought a survey of cutting-edge artist Brian Jungen and then Raven Travelling, a comprehensive show of Haida art. The latter brought more than 200 Haida masterworks from international collections to Vancouver, some for the very first time.

The gallery has also augmented its photo-based art, acquiring the important Schwartz collection in 2003. It includes major works by Cindy Sherman, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth and Dan Graham. The VAG topped that up the following year with the acquisition and showing of the magnificent Beck/Gruft collection, a richly diverse body of more than 450 works that helped distinguish the gallery having as one of the most important photography collections in North America.

"Kathleen Bartels is the best thing to have happened to the VAG in a very long time," says collector, architect and academic Andrew Gruft. "She has encouraged artists, collectors, curators and staff, and revived support for the VAG in the arts community, turning around what had been a divisive atmosphere in Vancouver." Vancouver artist Roy Arden concurs: "She's been the best director since God knows when." And her quest to move the gallery is utterly appropriate, adds Arden: "It's just time."

The gallery has outgrown its current locale, the 1911 provincial courthouse at Robson and Hornby streets, reconfigured by Arthur Erickson in 1983. The VAG had hired Los Angeles architect Michael Maltzan to study new approaches for the current location. But, last year, the VAG stopped working with Maltzan and focused instead on finding a new site. The gallery needs to double its exhibition, programming and storage space, Bartels says. The artists themselves face logistic nightmares: Roy Arden cites the awkward layout, unwanted rotunda light, and nondescript entries to exhibition floors.

Bartels has been discussing her vision with several high-profile architects, from Japan's Tadao Ando to London-based Zaha Hadid -- reportedly her favourite architect. The land value alone of these two lots is over $50-million, and one rumour projects a budget of $300-million for the new VAG. A City Council report notes that "VAG wants iconic design, and an architectural competition; others are seeking integrated facilities designed from the inside out." Bartels cautions against reading too much into the statement. "The word 'iconic' is being thrown around quite a bit," says Bartels. "I think what the gallery needs is a really good art museum."

Some observers, while supportive of the VAG's ambition, caution against overemphasis on so-called "starchitecture" -- huge attention-grabbing buildings in the mode of Daniel Libeskind's Royal Ontario Museum addition or Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Bilbao. "I hope it isn't done just for the sake of flamboyance, but for the sake of getting a great gallery," says Vancouver architect and planner Joost Bakker. He warns that the area already has many big stand-alone buildings that stifle street life. "To drop another one on that site seems counter to the ambition that we animate these areas." Vancouver architect Bing Thom, for his part, has been pushing for a more integrated approach to developing the city-owned site, with the participation of the Asia-Pacific Foundation, the Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design, and other cultural institutions.

Artists themselves are mostly aligning with Bartels' architectural ambitions, wherever she chooses to take them. "We have so many internationally renowned artists in Vancouver," says veteran artist Gordon Smith, citing Jeff Wall, Graham Gillmore, Stan Douglas and others. "I support getting the best architect in the world here."

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/sto...PStory/National
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Old November 13th, 2006, 04:01 AM   #2
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sounds promising

what will happen with the old VAG?

a huge H&M perhaps?
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Old November 13th, 2006, 06:25 AM   #3
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Just pray it isn't a huge Starbucks.

This is exciting news. Definately more exciting than another condo complex.
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Old November 13th, 2006, 06:42 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spongeg View Post
sounds promising

what will happen with the old VAG?

a huge H&M perhaps?
i've heard things like a kids cultural museum.
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Old November 13th, 2006, 09:03 PM   #5
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This would be a monumental step in gentrifiying the DT eastside. The arts/cultural district is usually the most sought after by the rich for condo living.
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Old November 14th, 2006, 06:52 AM   #6
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This would be a monumental step in gentrifiying the DT eastside. The arts/cultural district is usually the most sought after by the rich for condo living.
it's not in the downtown eastside.....but the Dalai Lama's World Centre for Peace and Education is rumoured to be built somewhere in the downtown eastside. It's a huge project as well....ranging from $50-100 million.
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"Preparations for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics are progressing so well, it's boring. We'd like there to be some challenges, so we [the IOC] could shout at them." - IOC (Sept. 2007)


"In medieval Europe if you didn't like somebody's argument and couldn't think of a real response you called them a witch and demanded they be burned at the stake. In the US you call them unpatriotic, and in Canada you call them racist."
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Old November 15th, 2006, 04:20 AM   #7
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Sounds great!
VAG is too small and, to be quite frank, a little embarrasing compared to other cities of similar size.
Vancouver needs impressive cultural institutions which it lacks.
So much attention has always been put on its beautiful locale that in some ways the cultural edge of the city has been ignored.
This is a great way to change that around and a true signature VAG with other cultural centres would be a real boon to the city.
Toronto is going thru a true cultural rennaisance on a massive scale, its time Vancouver did the same.
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Old November 15th, 2006, 08:10 AM   #8
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I wouldn't mind expanding and improving the existing art gallery. Here were the original expansion options a year ago:









Imagine that and maybe some whacky lighting for the old building:
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"Preparations for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics are progressing so well, it's boring. We'd like there to be some challenges, so we [the IOC] could shout at them." - IOC (Sept. 2007)


"In medieval Europe if you didn't like somebody's argument and couldn't think of a real response you called them a witch and demanded they be burned at the stake. In the US you call them unpatriotic, and in Canada you call them racist."

Last edited by mr.x; November 15th, 2006 at 08:15 AM.
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Old February 10th, 2007, 02:50 AM   #9
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Vancouver's Heart Up for Grabs
Ground zero: QE Theatre
Shaping a $300 million arts district: Who decides? A special report.

By Adele Weder
Published: January 29, 2007

Downtown Vancouver is on the brink of a jaw-dropping transformation that few citizens know much about, but it will change life in the city forever.

The city, province and a handful of alpha-players in the arts scene are hammering out a scheme for a high-budget, architecturally spectacular arts district. The plans are gestating as we speak behind closed doors. If all goes well, within six months there will be an announcement that could finally shed Vancouver's reputation as merely a resort playground, and present the city as something of a cultural destination.

The question is: whose culture will it be?

The site in question is a two-block parcel of land next to the Vancouver Public Library, bounded by Georgia, Dunsmuir, Hamilton and Beatty streets. The city owns this land, and the aging Queen Elizabeth Theatre stands proudly on one block, but a lot of arts organizations are vying to plant spanking new edifices atop it. It will be Phase 1 of the city's ambitious "cultural precinct," a long-term plan to establish a concentration of respectable arts facilities, finally, in the centre of the city.

You can see the lay of the land yourself in a late-October city council report, co-authored by cultural manager Sue Harvey and cultural precinct manager Ken Dobell. The report is on a hard-to-find niche of the city website rather than on the roster of regular council meetings, but once found, it reveals both the complexity and the huge stakes behind the current in-camera talks.

As the council report notes, there are far more proposals for the site than money and space to accommodate them. Even if nothing much is said in public, the behind-the-scenes politicking is frenzied. This is a dogfight.

Culture on the block

The cultural precinct will be developed over a 15-year period, but there is already rough consensus for Phase 1. The three-point plan consists of:

1. Renovating the QE Theatre. (That's pretty straightforward.)

2. Establishing those two blocks as an "Olympic Live Site" to "showcase sports, arts, culture, the city and the future cultural precinct." (That gets a bit trickier.)

3.After 2010, building up the site with cultural facilities that are deemed "both viable and desirable" by the cultural-precinct planning process. (That's the trickiest.)

Number three is tricky because the whole concept of a "cultural precinct" has morphed a lot in the past year. Last April, the premier's office announced an impending "cultural precinct" championed by architect Bing Thom. Since then, Thom's original vision for a more decentralized collection of smaller institutions has been replaced with a focus on that two-block lot.

What concerns Thom is that a single cultural facility might end up grabbing the lion's share of the site, the public attention, and the funding. That facility, by the way, would be the Vancouver Art Gallery, whose ambitious, high-powered director is Kathleen Bartels.

Nothing's confirmed yet, say insiders, but momentum is building for an international design competition to design a brand-new, high-budget and spectacular VAG. (The rest of the lot will be filled in with a revamped QE Theatre, a government office tower and a handful of other cultural facilities. In the running, among others, are the National Aboriginal Art Gallery, Coal Harbour Arts Complex and the Asia-Pacific Museum of Trade and Culture.

Thom: Vancouver's different

Thom is still an aspiring participant in the new vision, but if the future VAG building is likely to be the centrepiece of the lot, it might end up shoving aside smaller institutions that would provide a broader cultural diversity for the area.

Thom worries that civic culture is sliding into the control of a few select, giant institutions that grab a dominant share of publicity and public money. He argues that as Vancouver grows, it is in danger of mimicking other North American metropolises in adopting the same dominant assumptions of what constitutes important culture: opera, symphony, art gallery.

But Vancouver culture is unique, argues Thom. For example, it's more informed by First Nations and Eastern Asian values than other metropolises, so we shouldn't necessarily adopt an a eye-stopping, starchitect-designed grand projet. The federal government maxes out its grants to cultural facilities at $30-million per institution; Thom wants the pie to be carved up in as many pieces as possible.

Who owns the VAG?

But if the power structure determines the program, and the VAG is the centrepiece project, we're in for some convoluted dealings, for the power structure of the VAG itself is a labyrinth.

The VAG's legal status is that of a charitable institution, not "owned" by anyone but rather existing for the benefit of others.

The actual building itself, though, is owned and managed by the City of Vancouver. But it currently sits on land owned by the provincial government (the onetime Supreme Court of B.C. -- which, in a stroke of irony, might end up housing the National Aboriginal Art Gallery). The VAG Board of Governors -- comprised mainly of A-list entrepreneurs -- decide the big stuff: which director to hire, whether to search for a new home and where that home should be.

When the top show dogs of government, culture and the private sector mix it up, there's almost inevitably some inbreeding.

Complicating things further is that Ken Dobell, who has served as right-hand man to Campbell since his Vancouver mayoral stint, is now being chided by NDP leader Carole James for double-dipping. He remains Campbell's paid advisor while simultaneously on the payroll of the city to lobby the province to help implement the cultural precinct.

In this web of stakeholders, there's one voice missing from the picture thus far: that of the Vancouver general public. The sole mention of public process in the city council report is a vague bureaucratic one-liner: "The Cultural Facilities Priority Plan will be developed through the Creative City Task Force public consultation." But it doesn't say when, where and how.

How much public say?


Architect Joost Bakker, whose firm Hotson Bakker Boniface Haden is reconfiguring the CBC block next door, knows a lot about public process. If a competition is in the works, says Bakker, the specifics of public need have to be woven into the terms of reference before the competition is even established.

"You have to respect there is a power structure," he says, "but should the power structure then represent what the detailed program becomes?"

That is: the basic size, program and urban context should be informed, if not wholly determined, by public need and consultation. "It's ironic for an architect to be saying this, but we're putting the building first," says Thom. "We should get the ideas rolling, and then think about what kind of building we want."

Officials at both the VAG and the city reply that it's just too early to say anything to the public about the in-camera mudwrestling for the cultural precinct. They have a point: complex negotiations would melt under the klieg lights of a public free-for-all, and we do pay our community leaders to lead.

But should the public have a say on the basic shape and content of the cultural landscape -- or is that best left to the politicians, bureaucrats, cultural leaders and private donors to wrestle over? To make a megaproject both viable and desirable is no mean feat.

"What constitutes the public is a complicated question," notes Matthew Teitelbaum, director of the Art Gallery of Ontario, in a telephone interview with The Tyee. "Is it our neighbours? Our 55,000 members? The international art community?"

'You can compromise boldness'

Teitelbaum is currently stickhandling Frank Gehry's ambitious expansion of his gallery, and a long, multilayered public-consultation process was part of the package. But the decision to expand and the choice of Gehry as architect was their own, made from their vantage point as cultural leaders.

"Our obligations are surely to our neighbours, but also to people who are connected to this international art institution and who want it to grow," says Teitelbaum. "The big knock against community-based input is that you can compromise an architect's boldness."

Public input can result in offensively inoffensive design-by-committee. Dream City author Lance Berelowitz echoes that view: "If you just ask the public, you get the full spectrum of an uninformed straw poll." Best, it seems, is to have cultural and political leaders lead--but have checks and balances to make sure they acknowledge the greater public good.

In this reporter's own straw poll, a few respondents snorted at the thought of a government office in a cultural precinct. But however irksome our government might be, we need more people actually working downtown, as opposed to sleeping, vacationing, and gallery-hopping there. Bring it on. Also, we'll need that money.

$300 million revamp

The redevelopment budget will likely be in the ballpark of $300 million, according to a city hall official. (The lot value alone is an estimated $50 million, adds the official.) In fact, the Coal Harbour Arts Complex and National Aboriginal Gallery are now underdogs for getting on that site, since by October they had failed to reach the fundraising criteria laid out by the city.

So now what happens? If city hall is to be believed, work will begin this spring to refurbish the QE Theatre. (Actually, it must begin in April to get finished by 2010, according to the council report.)

Also around that time there should be a splashy announcement of an international design competition for the Vancouver Art Gallery on that prized plot next to the Vancouver Public Library, the biggest-scale competition since the library itself.

Then be on your guard for what happens next. At the minimum, the city and the VAG should follow the lead of the Art Gallery of Ontario by implementing a bona-fide public process. And they should consider what the fabulous new VAG will do to street life, and to its neighbours. Downtown Vancouver, with its view corridors and bumptious culture, is nothing like the site of Frank Gehry's Bilbao Guggenheim, and big cities attempt to replicate the Bilbao effect at their peril.

A huge, separate, standalone building -- no matter how artsy the function or how famous the architect -- would be bad news for street life in that area of downtown, says Joost Bakker. The area is already home to too many disconnected monoliths, which deaden pedestrian activity. (His firm master-planned the very public and very successful Granville Island.)

"What's really important is that we have great art," says Bakker, who himself is on the board of the Contemporary Art Gallery. "Having great art does not necessarily equate to having a huge monument."

Architect left in the dark

Vancouver's most prominent, VAG-connected artists tend to support the Bartels vision, not surprisingly; and, by all accounts, Bartels herself is brilliant, tireless, well connected, and most likely to pull in the big donor bucks. What unsettles the skeptics is whether our city's architecture and cultural manifestation should be swayed to such an extent by a single individual and institution.

For such a momentous and expensive and very public project, the process has been left to ferment -- or languish -- behind closed doors. Even the architects are occasionally left in the lurch.

Michael Maltzan, a prominent California architect hired to design alternatives for the VAG to expand on its current site, presented his findings to Director Bartels, and was then dropped like a stone. In fact, this reporter's phone call was the first news to Maltzan that the VAG had decided to expand on a new site instead.

The firm the VAG hired to handle the search for its new site, Henriquez Partners, is appropriately tight-lipped on the proceedings.

Thom, for his part, shows no reluctance to speak his mind: "This is the most important city block we have left," he warns. "It's a tremendous opportunity to be an incubator for small groups. We have to look at it very carefully."


http://thetyee.ca/News/2007/01/29/CulturalPrecinct/
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"Preparations for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics are progressing so well, it's boring. We'd like there to be some challenges, so we [the IOC] could shout at them." - IOC (Sept. 2007)


"In medieval Europe if you didn't like somebody's argument and couldn't think of a real response you called them a witch and demanded they be burned at the stake. In the US you call them unpatriotic, and in Canada you call them racist."
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Old February 10th, 2007, 03:43 AM   #10
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How to get creative with an arts district
TREVOR BODDY

From Friday's Globe and Mail (Feb 9, 2007)

The last empty block in Vancouver's downtown core will soon get built out. Whatever else gets constructed, there most certainly will not -- surprise, surprise -- be a single condo-to-come on the block bounded by Georgia, Cambie, Dunsmuir and Beatty Streets.

Instead, the block that currently serves as a Canada Post parking lot next to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre will be the hub of a planned new "arts precinct," a different kind of public-private partnership that could be worth $400-million or more. With feasibility study funding in place from city council, planning for this keystone block is being overseen by consultant Ken Dobell, former city manager and senior aide to Premier Campbell.

Unfortunately, the silence from key players about what is being planned for the site is deafening, and planning is proceeding almost entirely out of the public eye.

That's not how they did it in Melbourne.


Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia

"You need to bring the public in right from the beginning," suggests Australian Robyn Archer, artistic director of the Melbourne Festival for most of this decade. The urban hub for her widely-praised festival is what may be the most successful arts precinct ever constructed for a city of about Vancouver's size --Federation Square, near Melbourne's Yarra River.

A highly-regarded international expert on arts festivals and urban cultural programming, Ms. Archer was in Vancouver to give an address to her arts colleagues gathered for Vancouver's recent PuSh Festival.

Ms. Archer watched Federation Square get built from her adjoining Melbourne Festival offices, and arranged the initial performing arts event there -- a street theatre production about urban homelessness -- while the construction hoardings were still up.

This kind of involvement by the public in the planning of the city's arts precinct was essential, says Ms. Archer, "because all of Melbourne felt the space was theirs; people rushed in as soon as the hoardings were down, and it's been the heart of the city ever since."

Federation Square is a major public space ringed by art and history museums, and linked to a nearby performing arts complex. This is almost the same formula as being discussed for Vancouver, where all-new premises for the Vancouver Art Gallery might join a possible National Museum of Aboriginal Art and theatre on a small "Olympic Square," located adjacent to our current cultural node of Library Square, CBC and Queen Elizabeth Theatre and Playhouse. The block will be used for live cultural events during the Winter Olympics, with permanent construction of museums and theatres to follow.

In a tour of the downtown block earmarked for Vancouver's arts precinct, Ms. Archer gets right to the point, Aussie-style: "It's a bit of an unloved place, isn't it?" When told an office tower might be part of the arts precinct block, she snorted "Shows you what they think of the arts!" Ms. Archer spoke of the river views and warm sunset light on Federation Square's sandstone pavers, then asked "Why isn't the arts precinct on your marvelous harbour?"

The short answer to her excellent question is that a landmark arts facility was earmarked and even partially funded for a waterside location -- the 1,800 seat Coal Harbour Theatre -- but it got bumped by convention centre expansion planners (led by Ken Dobell, then in the premier's office) who were convinced that an even larger waterfront site was needed for windowless meeting halls.

The Coal Harbour money will likely drift onto the new arts block, but it seems more and more likely that most of the block will be consumed by an all-new Vancouver Art Gallery, leaving little space for a Federation Square-like large plaza, or even its wide mixture of arts and museum uses. VAG is pushing for an architectural competition of some sort.

Cost figures from Toronto, Seattle and other cities that have gone the high-profile "starchitect" route is that a building the size of the expanded VAG could cost up to a quarter billion dollars. Unlike Vancouver, to date, Melbourne did not chase after a celebrity designer like Frank Gehry or Daniel Libeskind. Instead, the striking buildings around Federation Square were produced by Australian architects, and have since garnered global acclaim, despite some initial unease. "The architecture debate goes away as soon as the people occupy the spaces," says Ms. Archer. She says Vancouverites should not place undue importance on architectural "eye factor."

Completing our tour, we passed by Vancouver's main post office on Georgia Street, a largely-empty fine modernist building that will soon be sold off by the Harper government. "This would be ideal for your art gallery and aboriginal museum," says Ms. Archer, adding that this would free up space on the arts precinct block for a true downtown square, plus the small- to medium-sized theatres Vancouver now lacks.

Maybe we should start playing by Aussie rules.

tboddy@globeandmail.com
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Old February 10th, 2007, 05:22 AM   #11
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If they build something for arts-sake like the Guggenheim, then it's all over for the district. It'll just become a lifeless monument visited by school kids on field trips.

It'll be like the Simpson's episode lol.
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Old February 10th, 2007, 06:44 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by officedweller View Post
How to get creative with an arts district
TREVOR BODDY

From Friday's Globe and Mail (Feb 9, 2007)

The last empty block in Vancouver's downtown core will soon get built out. Whatever else gets constructed, there most certainly will not -- surprise, surprise -- be a single condo-to-come on the block bounded by Georgia, Cambie, Dunsmuir and Beatty Streets.

Instead, the block that currently serves as a Canada Post parking lot next to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre will be the hub of a planned new "arts precinct," a different kind of public-private partnership that could be worth $400-million or more. With feasibility study funding in place from city council, planning for this keystone block is being overseen by consultant Ken Dobell, former city manager and senior aide to Premier Campbell.

Unfortunately, the silence from key players about what is being planned for the site is deafening, and planning is proceeding almost entirely out of the public eye.

That's not how they did it in Melbourne.


Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia

"You need to bring the public in right from the beginning," suggests Australian Robyn Archer, artistic director of the Melbourne Festival for most of this decade. The urban hub for her widely-praised festival is what may be the most successful arts precinct ever constructed for a city of about Vancouver's size --Federation Square, near Melbourne's Yarra River.

A highly-regarded international expert on arts festivals and urban cultural programming, Ms. Archer was in Vancouver to give an address to her arts colleagues gathered for Vancouver's recent PuSh Festival.

Ms. Archer watched Federation Square get built from her adjoining Melbourne Festival offices, and arranged the initial performing arts event there -- a street theatre production about urban homelessness -- while the construction hoardings were still up.

This kind of involvement by the public in the planning of the city's arts precinct was essential, says Ms. Archer, "because all of Melbourne felt the space was theirs; people rushed in as soon as the hoardings were down, and it's been the heart of the city ever since."

Federation Square is a major public space ringed by art and history museums, and linked to a nearby performing arts complex. This is almost the same formula as being discussed for Vancouver, where all-new premises for the Vancouver Art Gallery might join a possible National Museum of Aboriginal Art and theatre on a small "Olympic Square," located adjacent to our current cultural node of Library Square, CBC and Queen Elizabeth Theatre and Playhouse. The block will be used for live cultural events during the Winter Olympics, with permanent construction of museums and theatres to follow.

In a tour of the downtown block earmarked for Vancouver's arts precinct, Ms. Archer gets right to the point, Aussie-style: "It's a bit of an unloved place, isn't it?" When told an office tower might be part of the arts precinct block, she snorted "Shows you what they think of the arts!" Ms. Archer spoke of the river views and warm sunset light on Federation Square's sandstone pavers, then asked "Why isn't the arts precinct on your marvelous harbour?"

The short answer to her excellent question is that a landmark arts facility was earmarked and even partially funded for a waterside location -- the 1,800 seat Coal Harbour Theatre -- but it got bumped by convention centre expansion planners (led by Ken Dobell, then in the premier's office) who were convinced that an even larger waterfront site was needed for windowless meeting halls.

The Coal Harbour money will likely drift onto the new arts block, but it seems more and more likely that most of the block will be consumed by an all-new Vancouver Art Gallery, leaving little space for a Federation Square-like large plaza, or even its wide mixture of arts and museum uses. VAG is pushing for an architectural competition of some sort.

Cost figures from Toronto, Seattle and other cities that have gone the high-profile "starchitect" route is that a building the size of the expanded VAG could cost up to a quarter billion dollars. Unlike Vancouver, to date, Melbourne did not chase after a celebrity designer like Frank Gehry or Daniel Libeskind. Instead, the striking buildings around Federation Square were produced by Australian architects, and have since garnered global acclaim, despite some initial unease. "The architecture debate goes away as soon as the people occupy the spaces," says Ms. Archer. She says Vancouverites should not place undue importance on architectural "eye factor."

Completing our tour, we passed by Vancouver's main post office on Georgia Street, a largely-empty fine modernist building that will soon be sold off by the Harper government. "This would be ideal for your art gallery and aboriginal museum," says Ms. Archer, adding that this would free up space on the arts precinct block for a true downtown square, plus the small- to medium-sized theatres Vancouver now lacks.

Maybe we should start playing by Aussie rules.

tboddy@globeandmail.com

Federation Square is ok, but I wasn't really all that blown away by it when I was in Melbourne recently.

I don't disagree that there should be early community involvement, but there also needs to be a framework for public discussion. I seem to recall the open competition for the library seemed to work quite well.

Breaking the cookie-cutter symphony-opera-art gallery model is all well and good. But there is a definite need to build something iconic. The reality is that much of Van's architecture is rather bland.
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Old February 10th, 2007, 06:56 AM   #13
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I'd hope we get something between bland and crazy (like that Seattle music museum... ). They should come up with a few proposals for the public to see and comment.
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Old February 11th, 2007, 11:27 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huhu View Post
If they build something for arts-sake like the Guggenheim, then it's all over for the district. It'll just become a lifeless monument visited by school kids on field trips.

It'll be like the Simpson's episode lol.
LOL. so true.
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Old February 13th, 2007, 04:57 AM   #15
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Will they theme the area by giving it a name? Something like Arts Quarter or something?
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Old February 13th, 2007, 07:57 AM   #16
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As soon as a city names something it is almost a sure bet that it won't end up really being that.
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Old February 13th, 2007, 08:47 AM   #17
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Its a pity that the art gallery is proposed to be in the middle of a no-where place when the City is so rich in fine sites for cultural institutions. Why not locate the gallery on a spectacular waterfront site with great views, akin to the Sydney Opera House or the Ottawa Museum of Civilisation (or the Anthropology Museum) rather than on a relatively non-entity urban block which does not really focus on any particular grand space.
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Old February 14th, 2007, 01:46 AM   #18
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Maybe the idea is to make the place not so much a "middle of nowhere place". Really, when you think about it... pick any spot in the city and you could argue that it's in the middle of nowhere. Waterfront space serves what purpose other than give someone great views? I agree that it'd probably be nicer, but I don't think it's really necessary with an art gallery. Then again, I'd rather see it on a waterfront space than a condo tower that I'll never be able to access.
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Old February 15th, 2007, 06:52 AM   #19
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i wouldnt mind something new, but PLEASE DONT BE CORNY!
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Old February 15th, 2007, 03:32 PM   #20
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That is what I have being saying for ages on this site about Vancouver planning.
All Vancouver wanted downtown were condos every 20 meters and now they are reaping the consequences of that poor planning. They left absolutly no room for such grand buildings and cultural areas so they are stuck putting it on the edge of downtown.
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