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The new 310,000-square-foot building will live at West Georgia and Cambie streets in Vancouver.
After a year of intense planning, the Vancouver Art Gallery unveiled architects Herzog & de Meuron’s conceptual design for the new museum building—and it’s made of wood.The stacked, vertical structure, which is slated to debut at West Georgia Street and Cambie in downtown Vancouver in 2021, is, at 310,000 square feet, double the size of the current gallery and is set to be 230 feet high with seven publicly accessible floors.The Swiss-based architecture firm—best known for their bold designs at London’s Tate Modern and the “Bird’s Nest” stadium in Beijing—was chosen for its history of working with contemporary artists as well as inventive design that’s responsive to the site, its geography and the local culture. Hence, the wood.Partner-in-Charge for the project at Herzog & de Meuron, Christine Binswanger, explained the choice to go vertical will result in a larger footprint and more options for the gallery when it comes to displaying work. Smaller galleries are found on the lower levels with the wide-open expansive gallery spaces up on the higher levels. The design also allows for light and views of nature to be brought in at multiple levels, with even bottom floors enjoying large windows and views of a sunken garden—all the while covered for Wet Coast weather.The low-rise wooden structure along the street is inspired by what the streets of Vancouver used to look like in earlier times, with row upon row of detached wooden homes.”It will be a powerful statement to construct this large building out of wood, a material with a long tradition in British Columbia,” said Binswanger. The new gallery will occupy what’s currently parking lot space in Larwill Park, and it’s supposed to connect east and west parts of the city, from Yaletown and central downtown to Gastown and Chinatown.Visitors will enter the gallery via the courtyard, which is accessible from all four sides. The covered courtyard will be open to everybody and the gallery hopes this space will see everything from art installations to concerts. The building rests on four cores and this tapered vertical stack will allow light to reach the courtyard with alternating setbacks and overhangs creating covered and open terrace spaces at all different levels.A variety of art spaces throughout the museum. Large suites are on the below-grade lobby and at levels 5 and 6. Some smaller exhibition spaces are dispersed around the courtyard and at the top roof terrace to level 7—with galleries differing in height, proportion and size. Here you can also see the sunken garden that brings nature and light into the lobby and surrounding exhibition spaces.Hole-punch windows that connect the gallery to its city surroundings. These precisely placed openings will also allow people to look into the galleries from the outside.The lower levels are mostly transparent, with the auditorium and its lobby and gallery offices on the second and third floors, the restaurant with its large covered terrace on the fourth floor. Double-height galleries rise up to street level to provide daylight and allow passersby to see inside. The museum is also capped by an expansive rooftop gallery and terrace.The Gallery’s free gallery, resource centre, cafe and store can be accessed from the courtyard and the street, while a sweeping ceremonial staircase between Cambie Street and the courtyard leads to the lobby below.