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When the Price Tags Editorial Board was considering the  2016 “Gordies” award for the most puzzling planning work, the new Vancouver Art Gallery design did come up. There was a quick scuffle online to find that the design was actually revealed in September 2015 and therefore could not qualify for the 2016 most puzzling planning work award.

In 2014 Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron were chosen to come up with a design for the new Vancouver Art Gallery, but not at the current site at 750 Hornby Street. The Hornby Street location is the 1913 Rattenbury designed courthouse that was renovated in 1983 by Arthur Erickson  to accommodate a 172,320 square foot gallery. The new art gallery was to be located at 688 Cambie Street on land provided by the city  on a 99 year lease. The original report to council in 2013 proposed a new art gallery that was double the size of the current gallery with 85,000 square feet of gallery space.

The project was to cost 350 million dollars in 2013. The Federal government and Provincial governments conditionally pledged 200 million dollars with the remaining  $150 million to be raised by private fundraising. It should be noted that this amount of money has never been privately fundraised for one project in Canada. To get people excited about the new gallery, Herzog and de Meuron who have also built the Tate Modern in London and the National Stadium (the Bird’s Nest) in Beijing drew up a conceptual drawing and model.

Herzog and de Meuron-Tate Gallery-London, National Stadium-Beijing

When the new design was released by Herzog and de Meuron, reaction was mixed. This is a firm that likes the grand gesture without scaled interest on the ground plane that would be warm or welcoming to building visitors. Critics noted that there were also plans to fence in the bottom for more exhibition space, and there was no vision on how this space would work with that of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre’s open space across the street.

Herzog and de Meuron proposal for New Vancouver Art Gallery, 688 Cambie Street

This 310,000 square foot wood clad building  would be approximately 20 storeys high but have seven floors for the public and two floors below grade for storage and parking. There would be 85,000 square feet of galleries, a new education centre, an auditorium, and library and archival services.

There’s not been much news about the new gallery’s progress at the new location on Cambie Street. The current 750 Hornby Street location with the wonderful lions at the entrance still functions as one of the city’s primary places to meet, greet and people watch. Price Tags is watching too.

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