Herzog & de Meuron
Project
2014-

The Site

Larwill Park, the site of the new Vancouver Art Gallery, is one of the last unbuilt city blocks on Vancouver’s Downtown Peninsula. The new site is situated seven blocks east of the current Gallery’s home on West Georgia Street. Surrounded by public institutions and part of a vibrant and flourishing neighborhood, it is a key location that connects the west and the east of the peninsula linking Yaletown and Central Downtown to Gastown and Chinatown.

The Architecture

The proposal for the new Vancouver Art Gallery is a sculptural, symmetrical, upright building. From an urban standpoint it is a classical type: a recognizable public building along a prominent boulevard. The building has both a low and a high component, addressing the human scale and street life, while also offering public visibility within the vertically dominated Downtown Peninsula.

The low building densifies and activates the public realm around the Vancouver Art Gallery by providing a continuous yet permeable street front; the courtyard is accessible through all three surrounding street facades. It also responds to the topography along West Georgia: the roofline follows the slope of the street, resulting in a building that is consistently low from one corner of the block to the next. In scale and materiality, it echoes the low wooden structures of early Vancouver, including those that framed Larwill Park until their demolition in the 1950s.

The courtyard space surrounded by the low building is open to the public and features generously landscaped garden beds providing opportunities for seating, meeting people and engaging with nature. The perimeter building houses a bar, café, shop and restaurant, alongside a community project space, daycare centre and artist-in-residence ateliers. The diverse programming of spaces serves to activate both the street and the courtyard, making it part of the daily fabric of the city. It can also accommodate a variety of artistic practices and experiences, from art installations and performances to concerts and evening cinema programs.

The tall building is an upright symmetrical figure, sculpted to express its inner life and to respond to the local climate. The building rests on four cores, rising 40 feet above the courtyard. The arrangement of the upper volumes allows the sun to reach the courtyard level by minimizing the mass at the bottom and maximizing it in the middle. Generous setbacks and overhangs alternate to create both covered and open terrace spaces on various levels. The vertical gallery tower adds a public dimension to the Vancouver skyline due to its varied programming. The large gallery suites, art education classrooms and day-to-day workspaces housed in the vertical stack activate the building from morning till evening. Most have a direct relationship with external terraces, allowing users to experience the building both inside and outside, to enjoy spectacular views and further take advantage of Vancouver’s climate through covered open spaces.

A variety of art spaces are distributed throughout the museum, differing in height, scale and proportion. This variety responds to many facets of the Gallery: the need for difference and specificity to display the multifaceted permanent collection, the wide range of anticipated temporary exhibitions, and the accommodation of the many forms of current and future artistic practice. All gallery levels provide natural light and views out towards the city and the landscape beyond.

Wood and copper both hold significant cultural value in the material history of British Columbia. Owing to its abundance and versatility, wood has been the material of choice for architecture and construction in the Vancouver region, from the traditional longhouses of the Coast Salish people to early 20th Century city growth. The new Vancouver Art Gallery will use wood as both cladding and structure for the low building, while the tower façade will be articulated in a copper toned metal. The referencing of copper in the design of the façade is the result of a dialogue with local artists, and stems from the fact that objects made of copper, often elaborately embossed, bent, and colored, carry a powerful message amongst many First Nations peoples of British Columbia. The copper façade protects the wooden surfaces beneath; it lends the Gallery a visually unique and distinctive character in direct contrast to its dense urban environment, dominated mainly by glass-clad towers distinctly of the 20th Century. It has a veil-like quality; a texture and lightness which – like traditionally woven textiles – changes its appearance depending on the vantage point of the observer and the time of day, creating a dynamic visual experience. The weaving concept has been developed in collaboration with local indigenous artists. Horizontal bands of perforated copper are intertwined with a series of shaped vertical elements, akin to the weft and warp found in the weaving of natural fibers. Where needed, the woven and perforated metal skin offers views out and daylight in, while in other areas it acts as a protective membrane over the opaque structural wall behind. From the street looking up at the structure both wood and copper are equally present. In the vertical, the new Vancouver Art Gallery engages with the tall city surroundings. At street level the modest, almost domestic scale enhances the character of openness and visibility for everyone.

Herzog & de Meuron, 2021

438_CI_2110_501
438_CI_2110_501
438_CI_001b
438_CI_001b
438_CI_2110_502
438_CI_2110_502

Process

Urban development on the Vancouver Downtown Peninsula occurred very rapidly in the second half of the 20th Centruy. Today the peninsula is almost at capacity, and dominated by vertical glass towers.

438_SI_1511_001_Vancouver-1930
438_SI_1511_001_Vancouver-1930
438_SI_1511_002_Vancouver-1970
438_SI_1511_002_Vancouver-1970
438_SI_1511_003_Vancouver-2014
438_SI_1511_003_Vancouver-2014

The site, Larwill Park, is one of the few remaining unbuilt city blocks. It has a legacy of civic use, but today is used as a parking lot. The surrounding city blocks are not well defined, and streetscape activation is lacking.

438_DR_140607_Vancouver_city_map_topo_grid
438_DR_140607_Vancouver_city_map_topo_grid
438_RF_220711_larwill-park
438_RF_220711_larwill-park
438_CI_141021_Larwill-Park-Centre-Toward-Cambie
438_CI_141021_Larwill-Park-Centre-Toward-Cambie
438_CI_141021_Larwill-Park-Dunsmuir-Beatty
438_CI_141021_Larwill-Park-Dunsmuir-Beatty
438_CI_141905_Site_State
438_CI_141905_Site_State

Larwill Park lies at the intersection of 4 pedestrian active neighbourhoods – Gastown, Yaletown, Downtown, and Chinatown. Therefore the project site has much potential to activate and better define the surrounding streetscape and start connecting the four adjacent neighbourhoods, thereby anchoring the new cultural precinct with the new Vancouver Art Gallery at its heart.

438_SI_141905_Street
438_SI_141905_Street
438_SI_152103_IMG_5813
438_SI_152103_IMG_5813
438_SI_220711_Downtown
438_SI_220711_Downtown
438_SI_220711_Vancouver-Chinatown-Past-and-Future-6
438_SI_220711_Vancouver-Chinatown-Past-and-Future-6
438_SI_141905_Site-Aerial-01
438_SI_141905_Site-Aerial-01

Three key design principles enable the new building to engage with the site’s legacy and urban situation.

The first is to link the new development with adjacent streetscapes, plazas and transport nodes, connecting the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and the Vancouver Public Library to the Stadium-Chinatown Metro station.

438_DG_150912_Steps_diagram_01
438_DG_150912_Steps_diagram_01

Secondly, a low perimeter building and accessible public courtyard with public programs activates both the courtyard and the sidewalk, whilst keeping the site open and permeable.

438_DG_150912_Steps_diagram_02
438_DG_150912_Steps_diagram_02

Third, the gallery volumes are lifted above the courtyard, allowing air, light, and permeable space. The low courtyard building invites entry to the unticketed courtyard; the sculptural and upright gallery tower places a tall public building amidst the surrounding context of vertical private development.

438_DG_150912_Steps_diagram_03
438_DG_150912_Steps_diagram_03

The first concept design studies explored joining the two parcels on Larwill Park into one development. All schemes consisted of a low volume activating the streetfront, combined with verticality and a network of landscaped open spaces or courtyards. The vertical elements offer views to the city and nature beyond. The courtyards bring lush nature into this part of the city.

438_MO_1410_006-MOc
438_MO_1410_006-MOc
438_MO_1410_004-MOc
438_MO_1410_004-MOc
438_MO_1410_016-MOc
438_MO_1410_016-MOc
438_MO_1410_014-MOd
438_MO_1410_014-MOd
438_MO_1502_026-MOd
438_MO_1502_026-MOd
438_MO_1502_026-MOc
438_MO_1502_026-MOc
438_MO_1502_026-MOa
438_MO_1502_026-MOa
438_CI_1502_DT07_QU-stack-building-plinth
438_CI_1502_DT07_QU-stack-building-plinth

In conversation with City of Vancouver and various stakeholders, the preference for museum function only and separate mixed-use development adjacent was established. This led to the idea of a vertical stacked gallery, placed within an open, permeable, non-ticketed courtyard.

438_MO_1410_002-MOc
438_MO_1410_002-MOc
438_MO_1703_008_MOc
438_MO_1703_008_MOc
438_MO_1703_009_MOc
438_MO_1703_009_MOc
438_MO_1703_011_MOc
438_MO_1703_011_MOc
438_MO_1703_012_MOc
438_MO_1703_012_MOc
438_MO_1703_014_MOc
438_MO_1703_014_MOc
438_MO_1703_015_MOc
438_MO_1703_015_MOc
438_MO_1703_016_MOc
438_MO_1703_016_MOc

The courtyard has been studied as a singular open outdoor space with a sunken garden and lobby, as well as a public plaza surrounding a 3-storey enclosed lobby space at ground level. Both explored the idea of an unticketed open space with much opportunity for planting.

438_MO_150914_Model-Shot-White01
438_MO_150914_Model-Shot-White01
438_CI_1605_DT42_courtyard_MV_4
438_CI_1605_DT42_courtyard_MV_4
438_CI_1605_DT18_Lobby_Garden_Escalator
438_CI_1605_DT18_Lobby_Garden_Escalator
438_MO_1601_024
438_MO_1601_024
438_CI_1706_007_Lobby4_ceiling1_allConcFloor_blackEsc_crop
438_CI_1706_007_Lobby4_ceiling1_allConcFloor_blackEsc_crop
438_CI_1811_003_Courtyard-Cambie-StairPavilion_Signage
438_CI_1811_003_Courtyard-Cambie-StairPavilion_Signage
438_MO_160921_547_M_K
438_MO_160921_547_M_K
438_MO_160921_552_M_K
438_MO_160921_552_M_K
438_CI_1610_DT43_Courtyard4
438_CI_1610_DT43_Courtyard4
438_CI_150921_171_Courtyard_night_K
438_CI_150921_171_Courtyard_night_K

The vertical stacked tower allows for strong indoor-outdoor relationships and compelling views on all levels. Art and education spaces adjacent to public terraces, gallery suites with precisely framed windows looking to the city beyond, and very generous public circulation routes, the Naves, which double as art space, oriented in the direction of the city grid. All of these allow the visitor to have a sense of time and orientation as they travel through the vertical museum.

438_MO_160917_476_M
438_MO_160917_476_M
438_CI_1502_DT05_Gallery
438_CI_1502_DT05_Gallery
438_CI_1703_089_L5_Gallery_concrete_floor_light
438_CI_1703_089_L5_Gallery_concrete_floor_light
438_CI_1704_001_LV5_Nave_people
438_CI_1704_001_LV5_Nave_people
438_MO_160229_026_K
438_MO_160229_026_K
438_MO_161027_018_M
438_MO_161027_018_M

438_MO_2211_1-50_K

The material exploration has developed over many years from a wood clad building, to a glass log facade, to a woven copper facade.

438_CI_1509_178_queen_elizabeth_square
438_CI_1509_178_queen_elizabeth_square
438_CI_1612_001_queen_elizabeth_square_Summer_TowerBlurNo
438_CI_1612_001_queen_elizabeth_square_Summer_TowerBlurNo
438_CI_1509_176__WG-Entrance
438_CI_1509_176__WG-Entrance
438_CI_1611_016_ENV_zoom_500mm
438_CI_1611_016_ENV_zoom_500mm
438_MU_160822_008_Glass-Tubes
438_MU_160822_008_Glass-Tubes
438_MU_190522_in-house-mock-up_065
438_MU_190522_in-house-mock-up_065

The current facade has been developed in close collaboration with a group of Coast Salish artists, who shared their knowledge of locally developed weaving techniques.

438_CL_220609_Artist-and-Chief
438_CL_220609_Artist-and-Chief
438_RFmt_210621_Pattern-Weaving
438_RFmt_210621_Pattern-Weaving
438_RF_221107_Threads-twist-and-fibre
438_RF_221107_Threads-twist-and-fibre
438_RFmt_210621_Pacific-Northwest-Wood-Cabin
438_RFmt_210621_Pacific-Northwest-Wood-Cabin
438_RFmt_220711_waving_sample_from_colaborators_detail
438_RFmt_220711_waving_sample_from_colaborators_detail
438_RFmt_210429_Chevron-Buddy-Mockup
438_RFmt_210429_Chevron-Buddy-Mockup

The low courtyard building is a wooden structure, made of mass timber elements that are both visible and structural. The tower is constructed of steel trusses and outriggers connected to concrete cores.

438_CI_2209_035
438_CI_2209_035
438_CI_2209_034
438_CI_2209_034
438_CI_2209_033
438_CI_2209_033
438_CI_2209_032
438_CI_2209_032

The cantilevering tower volumes are wrapped in a lustrous metal skin, made up of horizontal bands and profiled vertical elements arranged in a woven metal assembly that echoes the local weaving traditions of the Coast Salish people.

438_CI_2109_097_LAY_L03Mezz_Facade_OptionD_CloseUP_K
438_CI_2109_097_LAY_L03Mezz_Facade_OptionD_CloseUP_K
438_CI_2109_008_LAY_L03Mezz_Foyer_Option4_K
438_CI_2109_008_LAY_L03Mezz_Foyer_Option4_K
438_2112_MO_004
438_2112_MO_004
438_MU_220205_IMG_3769_K
438_MU_220205_IMG_3769_K
438_MU_220109_IMG_9472_K
438_MU_220109_IMG_9472_K
438_MU_221117_Press_forming-Tube_workshop_tests (33)_K
438_MU_221117_Press_forming-Tube_workshop_tests (33)_K
438_MU_221117_IMG_1432_K
438_MU_221117_IMG_1432_K
IMG_1440
IMG_1440
438_CI_2212_002_FCD_Mockup_K
438_CI_2212_002_FCD_Mockup_K
438_RFmt_210621_Ad-Hoc-Artist-Collective-Weft_K
438_RFmt_210621_Ad-Hoc-Artist-Collective-Weft_K

Drawings

438_DR_220711_Pin up Section
438_DR_220711_Pin up Section

Team

Project Team
Jeremy Addison (Project Director)
Volker Jacob (Project Manager)
Jos Reinders (Project Manager)
Michael Bekker (Associate)
Valentin Abend
Roman Aebi
Bruno de Almeida Martins
Jeanne Autran-Edorh
Michal Baurycza
Mikolaj Bazaczek
Frédéric Beaupère
Michael Bekker
Antoine Berchier
Mario Bonilla
Aurélien Caetano
Catarina Canas
Javier de Cárdenas Canomanuel
Paolo Catrambone
Yasemin Ciorabai
Ryan Cole
David Colombini
João Conceição
Massimo Corradi
Catarina Croft
Joao Da Silva Moreira
Casper Dam
Giulio Delle Sedie
Simon Demeuse
Nadia Dias
Dave Edwards
Joshua Ehrlich
Niklas Erlewein
Santiago Espitia Berndt
Erik Fichter
Michel Frei
Luis Gisler
Stefan Goeddertz
Laura Gonzalez Alastuey
Ciarán Grogan
Anthony Haag
Christian Hahn
Duyi Han
Josh Helin
Vasileios Kalisperakis
Maria Krasteva
Lap Chi Kwong
Dan Ladyman
Sahng O Lee
Ines Li-Wearing
Jan-Christoph Lindert
Alonso Mortera
Magnus Möschel
Jan Mulder
Benjamin Muller
Ludwig Müller
Alessandro Musolino
Richard Nelson-Chow
Gourav Neogi
Niklas Nordström
Raneen Nosh
Mehmet Noyan
Dominik Nüssen
Albert Palazón
Felipe Pecegueiro Curado
Enrique Peláez
Gonzalo Peña
Alessandro Racca
Holger Rasch
Liam Rawlins
Hugo Rebelo
Zoé Renaud
Steffen Riegas
Anna Salvioni
Philipp Schaefle
Stephan Schenk
Roel Schiffers
Manuela Schönenberger
Martin Schulte
Günter Schwob
Lasse Skafte
Aleksandar Slavikovic
Christian Szalay
Lukasz Szlachcic
Nuria Tejerina
Diana-Ionela Toader
João Filipe Varandas
Maria Vega Lopez
André Vergueiro
Leona Wagener
Harry M.X. Wei
Louie Weiss
Finn Wilkie
Matteo Zapparoli

Facts

Client
The Vancouver Art Gallery Association
Planning
Design Consultant : Herzog & de Meuron Basel Ltd, Basel, Switzerland
Executive Architect : Perkins & Will, Vancouver, Canada
Landscape Architect: PFS Studio, Vancouver, Canada
Structural Engineering: Fast & Epp, Vancouver, Canada
Mechanical & Electrical Engineering: Integral Group, Vancouver, Canada
Specialist / Consulting
Facade Engineering: RDH Facade Engineering, Vancouver, Canada
Traffic Engineering: Bunt & Associates LLC, Vancouver, Canada
Vertical Transportation: Arup, London, UK
Building Code: GHL Consultants Ltd, Vancouver, Canada
Civil Engineering: Aplin Martin, Vancouver, Canada
Sustainability & Passive House: RDH, Vancouver, Canada
Lighting: Arup, London, UK
Acoustics: RWDI, Vancouver, Canada
Art & Design Consultants: Debra Sparrow, Chepximiya Siyam’ Janice George, Skwetsimeltxw Willard ‘Buddy’ Joseph, and Angela George; Vancouver, Canada
Contractors
General Contractor : Ledcor Construction Limited, Canada, Vancouver
Building Data
Site Area: 910'407 sqft, 84'579 sqm
Gross floor area (GFA): 487'726 sqft, 45'311 sqm
GFA above ground: 322'531 sqft, 29'964 sqm
GFA below ground: 165'195 sqft, 15'347 sqm
Number of levels: 14
Footprint: 44'046 sqft, 4'092 sqm
Length: 188 ft, 57 m
Width: 182 ft, 55 m
Height: 226 ft, 68 m
Gross volume (GV): 8'035'829 cbft, 227'549 cbm
Facade surface: 181'652 sqft, 16'876 sqm
Links
www.vanartgallery.bc.ca

Bibliography

Luis Fernández-Galiano (Ed.): “Arquitectura Viva Monografias. Herzog & de Meuron 2013-2017.” Vol. No. 191-192, Madrid, Arquitectura Viva SL, 12.2016.