A Fresh Look at Herzog & de Meuron’s Vancouver Art Gallery

John Hill
24. January 2019
All images courtesy of the Vancouver Art Gallery

The Vancouver Art Gallery has released renderings of the final design for the institution's new gallery building, to be named the Chan Centre for the Visual Arts after a $40 million gift from the Chan Family.

Our first look at Herzog & de Meuron's design for the new, 300,000-square-foot home of the Vancouver Art Gallery came in October 2015, a year and a half after the Swiss architects were selected over Diller Scofidio + Renfro, KPMB Architects, SANAA, and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects. The massing of the building has changed very little in the ensuing three years, but the all-wood exterior has ben eschewed in favor of what Herzog & de Meuron partner Christine Binswanger calls "glass logs."

In a statement from the Vancouver Art Gallery, Binswanger said, "The building now combines two materials, wood and glass, both inseparable from the history and making of the city. We developed a façade out of glass logs which is pure, soft, light, establishing a unique relation to covered wooden terraces all around the building." Unfortunately, the renderings supplied by the Gallery do not reveal how the architects envision the spaces behind the glass logs. Instead, the interiors we see are variations on traditional white-box galleries, with wood beams above plaster walls punctuated by full-height windows.

​With the announcement of the gift and release of renderings, the Vancouver Art Gallery is anticipating completion of their new building in 2023.

The project is located at Larwill Park, on a city-owned parcel at the intersection of West Georgia and Cambie streets, just a few blocks east of the Gallery's current home.
"By lifting the bulk of the structure high above the street, the design allows light and air to filter down to an active, open-air courtyard below."
The project includes "a major expansion of the Gallery’s education programs with dedicated spaces affording the ability to reach nearly 90,000 children and youth per year."
The Gallery aims to "provide a welcoming environment for residents and visitors alike to embrace and share creativity, and to explore and celebrate different ideas and cultures, positively impacting countless lives for generations to come."
The new building will include approximately 25 permanent collection galleries.
The building is being designed to Passivhaus standard, since they result "in ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for space heating or cooling."
In addition to galleries, the new building will have "community spaces, 350-seat theatre, free-access galleries, complementary admission programs, and publicly accessible Resource Centre Library and archives."

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