VOTE | Whose Architectural Vision Do You Want For The New Vancouver Art Gallery?


After wading through a pool of some 75 architectural firms from 16 countries following and open request for qualifications, The Vancouver Art Gallery has just named five of them as finalists for the design of its highly anticipated new home at West Georgia and Cambie. They are New York giants Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron, KPMB Architects of Toronto, and our fave of the lot, SANAA of Tokyo. According to the release that the VAG sent out this morning, they will be conducting “in-person interviews with each of the finalists in the coming months” and they expect to announce a final decision before the start of summer:

“The new museum building will allow the Vancouver Art Gallery to better serve its visitors, more fully realize the international reach and range of its mission and program, and will provide an international platform for local and regional artists. The new building will offer dedicated space for the Gallery’s growing collections, expanded indoor and outdoor exhibition spaces for its dynamic exhibitions, and new educational facilities that will allow the museum to dramatically increase its educational and public programs.”


Granted there are no designs to get excited about yet, but after salivating over our keyboards going through the portfolios of each firm all morning l0ng, we’ve ranked them in the order of our preference below (accompanying text via the VAG). It’s a pretty kickass short list. Once you’ve finished your own perusing, be sure to add your two cents in the poll at the bottom of the post.

1. SANAA is a Tokyo-based collaborative office, founded by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa. With all projects based on careful study of the context, program, and client objectives, their works range in scale from master planning, to educational and cultural facilities, to product and furniture design. Recent and notable projects include: Louvre-Lens Museum in France; the Rolex Learning Center in Switzerland; New Museum in New York; the Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio; and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Japan. SANAA has been awarded The Pritzker Architecture Prize, the Golden Lion, and the Prize of the Architectural Institute of Japan, among other awards. [image credit: Iwan Baan]

2. Herzog & de Meuron are known for designs that are sensitive to the site, geography, and cultural context creating projects that are highly specific to their place and program brief, from small-scale private projects to large-scale public and cultural facilities. Recent and notable projects include: the Tate Modern in London; the Schaulager in Basel; the de Young Museum in San Francisco; the Pérez Art Museum Miami; and M+ in Hong Kong. Led by five Senior Partners—Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron, Christine Binswanger, Ascan Mergenthaler, and Stefan Marbach—and based in Basel, Switzerland, the firm has been awarded The Pritzker Architecture Prize, the RIBA Royal Gold Medal, and the Praemium Imperiale.

3. Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) is an interdisciplinary design studio that integrates architecture, the visual arts, and the performing arts. Based in New York City, DS+R is led by three partners: Elizabeth Diller, Ricardo Scofidio, and Charles Renfro. Completed projects include: Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York, including the redesign and expansion of the Juilliard School, Alice Tully Hall, and the School of American Ballet; the High Line, an urban park situated on an obsolete elevated railway stretching 1.5 miles long through New York; and the Institute of Contemporary Art, the first new museum to be built in Boston in 100 years. Projects in progress include: the Broad Art Museum in Los Angeles; the Museum of Image & Sound in Rio de Janeiro; the MoMA Expansion in New York City; and Culture Shed in New York’s Hudson Yards Development. Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio were the first architects to receive the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, awarded for their commitment to integrating architecture with issues of contemporary culture.

4. KPMB Architects is considered one of Canada’s leading architectural studios and has led the design for major cultural public projects throughout the country, including Canada’s National Ballet School, the Gardiner Museum in Toronto, the Remai Art Gallery of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, and the Royal Conservatory TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning in Toronto, as well as the Canadian Embassy in Berlin. Its work has been honoured with twelve Governor General Medals, Canada’s highest honour for architecture, and has been recognized internationally by the American Institute of Architects, the Royal Institute of British Architects, and the Urban Land Institute.

5. Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects is a New York-based firm providing architectural, master planning, urban design, and interior design services to municipal, institutional, and private clients in the United States and abroad, with a particular focus on buildings for museums, schools, and non-profits. Notable projects include: the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia; the American Folk Art Museum in New York; The Phoenix Art Museum; the Asia Society in Hong Kong; and the new US Embassy Compound in Mexico City. Williams and Tsien are recipients of awards such as the 2013 AIA Architecture Firm Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Brunner Award, and the New York City AIA Medal of Honor, among others.

Which firm would you like to see tasked with designing the new Vancouver Art Gallery?

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  • Andrew Browne

    Eugh this is turning into a arena / stadium / monorail / amusement park / starchitect debacle before it even begins. I mean, god, Herzog & de Meuron? Really? Are we spaniards? Has we learned nothing from the last 15 years of superdeluxe global art gallery nightmares?

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s not necessarily that we need a local firm (though I’m sure a case could be made for that), but this is just a bit formulaic so far. Just as we don’t need a local firm, we don’t necessarily need some global starchitect boondoggle either.

    And, not to put too fine a point on it… the site is a giant rectangle. It’s really not constrained in any way at all. There isn’t a particularly huge bit of problem solving to be done here. It needs a strong design aesthetic, fine, but hopefully something that will stand the test of time. Not as sculpture first and building second.

  • Thomas

    @Andrew Brown – Agreed.

  • giselle

    so a firm will be selected based on its previous projects rather than what they will actually design? really? i’m no longer optimistic …

  • Scout Magazine

    No, Giselle. It’s just us here at Scout asking people to choose their favourite designers before it moves on to the selection stage. I would imagine the firms would be furnishing designs with their proposals.

  • Andrew Browne

    Scout: Well, if your article is correct, it’s actually a bit more than that. It’s that the VAG has narrowed down to just 5 firms from 75 on the strength of their portfolios alone. And while I wouldn’t want to exaggerate and call the list outright discouraging, it does raise some concerns.

  • Stephanie

    @giselle – When you apply for a job you are evaluated based on your previous work experience.

  • Pingback: KPMB makes Vancouver Art Gallery’s architect shortlist – The Globe and Mail | BC Business News

  • Rem Koolaid

    Their Top 5 is pretty telling. May as well just toss a coin, because no matter who gets the contract, we know the building is gonna look like a pile of glass IKEA cabinets blown up to fascist proportions, just like everything else built in this city since 1990.

  • giselle

    @scout – i suppose they do need a way to whittle down firms
    @stephanie – fair point but i’m also interviewed to see if the skills/experience i have match up to the current job requirements

    and as example, i’d argue that norman foster would be a fine reason of why i’d want to see a submission – he’s done some great work (hsbc building in h.k, wobbly (er, millenium) bridge in london, reichstag restoration in berlin etc but jameson house here in vancouver is fairly underwhelming …

  • Joe Just Joe

    Open it up to the public to chose. Ultimately it is us that will be paying for it. The public did a good job choosing the design for the VPL so why not now as well?

  • mike

    Pick anyone you want, is all pie in the sky, there is no money, no federal funds, all an election whim by the lack of vison party, will be many moons before anything happens on this site.

  • jennyr

    I vote to leave it where it is and spend the money on art! How’s that for a crazy idea?

  • 2 pence

    @ jennyr, I totally agree. It’s the artwork that will bring people into the building, not the building itself. I can’t recall any exhibit in recent memory that hasn’t been underwhelming.

  • Scout Magazine

    Rommy was here.

  • KK

    jennyr & 2 pence,

    Spending money on art isn’t an issue. The whole reason this move has become necessary is because their vast collection has become so massive that not only is there not nearly enough space to exhibit any considerable portion, but space is so tight that there’s now not even enough room to store it.

  • sean

    I guess an expansion in the mould of the Rijksmuseum and to a lesser extent Libeskind’s ROM is out of the question? We need another grand project to piss money away, not that I care if comes from private sources.

  • Brent

    I vote we keep the Art Gallery in the old Courthouse. If we need more space we can expand under the fountain-plaza on the Georgia Street side. Robson Square is arguably the heart of downtown. The proposed new location is on the outside fringe of the mega-institution wasteland – a terrible location.

    What’ll happen to the Robson Square/Courthouse location if the Gallery pulls out? Another Victoria’s Secret?

    And if we must relocate the danged Art Gallery (seems like a done deal) why isn’t Vancouver’s top firm, Patkau Architects in the running?