The New Vancouver Art Gallery Design

Art Makes Me

I drove the cobbled street to find parallel parking, as I felt uncomfortable going to a parkade in the evening by myself. I spoke with the ticketer about the 2-hour limit. He said I could have 4 hours if I paid by phone. I read the sign but I needed an app and was in a rush although I was early. I walked to the Q.E. Theatre but had entered with the wrong line-up in the other part of the building. I slipped over next door and found myself amidst quiet chatter and tinkling glasses: a growing sound.

As we moved into the theatre space the ushers guided our way. It took a while then all the dignitaries were led down the aisle and up to the stage by a bagpiper. Acknowledgement was given of being on the Coast Salish Territories. The speeches began. This night had been 8 years in the making.

The architects from Herzog and de Meuron rose and went to the other mike as everyone else left the stage. History of the rectangular land next door was shown – always an open space, surrounded by two story wooden houses and often the land where the public met. The history of the land shown made the presentation worthwhile to me.

Slowly and gradually the stage was set for the big reveal. One of the architects said that it was coming ‘right now’ but the image did not appear to us for another half hour. Slides were shown of their other projects around the world – including the Bird’s Nest building in Beijing. Yet I was excited. I wondered what could top that. Our building surely would be even more special. The architects, one woman principal and one man, spoke of their 12 visits to Vancouver over the past 8 years. We saw their view of the city from an airplane – the forest and mountains.

We were told about the slope of the space at Cambie and West Georgia and how they would work with that. Previously we had heard of the need for double the gallery space. We saw the floor plans of the new space including the outdoor perimeter galleries. Then an image almost slipped by my eyes. It was wooden they said. It was raised. It allowed maximum sunlight. It looked like a wooden Inukshuk, the legs of which were to be forty feet high. The height of the stacked pods would be equal to that of the two commercial buildings built on the back 1/3 of the land. The perimeter galleries would be free for the public in order to ‘activate’ the street.

Before I could see much of the inside I had to leave in the dark to feed the parking meter. Two hours had gone by so slowly. Then I felt underwhelmed with the reveal. In a daze I stood at each crosswalk on the way to the car. Church bells were pealing in a celebratory way.

Back at the theatre I arrived for the last slides – streetscapes. It did look appealing. A cool looking man about my age asked me what I thought about the presentation. I quipped, “It was very slow but I am looking forward to the new gallery.” Before I could ask what he thought I was alone again. He must have been involved in the design somehow and was getting a feel for the reaction of the crowd.

The ensuing party on the new gallery land next door was white tented. Coloured lights shone up the tree trunks. B.C. Place in blue could be seen behind. The evening was pleasantly mild and the tall heaters by each table were glowing hot. Cool drinks were gratis and I chatted with another artist while a long lost gallery friend dropped by to get reacquainted. Greek food from the nearby food trucks attracted my attention. I waited amidst the coloured lights happy to be downtown in the evening of this historic event. After my goodbyes I saw Landon Mackenzie, my former art professor but could not catch her eye. These were the beautiful people of Vancouver – the art glitterati. Always on the periphery I was yet with them.

On the drive home I got to see the bridge lit up at night – the pearl necklace. The ridge of the mountains was lit by the full moon. I heard that the design that we had waited for throughout the evening was in fact viewed on the early news by all. I felt annoyed that we who were physically present were the last to know. I also felt elated that I had been on the land where it would happen.

This next morning waves of images come and go in my mind: stacked wooden pods that if made of metal could look like containers from a ship, a raised restaurant from which to view the city with friends, a unique structure that will be talked about for years to come. I find myself thinking about the controversy that surround the ‘new’ Scottish parliament building design I saw in Edinburgh. I find myself remembering that it was said sometime this evening that this plan was not set in stone. Would this building ever come to be started in 2017?

I look forward to the regular monthly artist meeting at the Ferry Building Gallery this morning to the reactions of others. It truly is wonderful to be involved in the arts. God uses art to make me.

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