Construction begins on new Vancouver Art Gallery

Construction begins on new Vancouver Art Gallery

Construction has officially commenced for the new Vancouver Art Gallery, marking the beginning of a large-scale project that will thrust Coast Salish art into the spotlight.

The new VAG building, to be located east of the former site at the intersection of Cambie Street and West Georgia Street, will have its exterior designed by Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) artists Skwetsimeltxw Willard “Buddy” Joseph and hereditary chief Chepximiya Siyam’ Janice George, Musqueam artist Qwasen, Debra Sparrow and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation) artist qʷənat, Angela George.

Crafted from a thin, veil-like copper sheet, the building’s facade has been designed to incorporate traditional Coast Salish weaving methods.

It will be fashioned in a way so the design reflects the light as the sun moves through the building, leading to an undulating exterior evocative of the fluid movements of a blanket, according to Tseil-Waututh artist and weaver Angela George.

“Our blankets that we wrap people in are meant to protect, so that was a big part of the design discussion, creating something that really protects everything that is housed in this building. Protecting the people that are in there, and the visitors that come,” she said.

An updated rendering of the design for the new Vancouver Art Gallery was released on Nov. 4, 2021.
A rendering of the design for the new Vancouver Art Gallery, released on Nov. 4, 2021. (Supplied by the Vancouver Art Gallery)

The new gallery, designed by Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron, is set to tower nine levels and span 350,000 square feet. The rest of the building will be crafted from wood and glass, and will house classrooms, artist studios, an Indigenous community space, a theatre, a number of restaurants and some retail, among its exhibition spaces.

The monumental project is penned for completion in 2028.

WATCH | Dances held at ‘ground awakening’ ceremony for new gallery: 

Indigenous dancers take part in a ceremony at future site of Vancouver Art Gallery

Family and friends of the renowned late Kwakwaka’wakw artist Beau Dick took part in what the Vancouver Art Gallery called a “ground awakening” ceremony Friday at the site of the gallery’s new building, which will be at a different location than the current 107-year-old facility.

Vancouver Art Gallery CEO and executive director Anthony Kiendl said the new building is an act of reconciliation, with the project designed and created in a way that respects and accurately represents the land that it was built on.

“This is a custom-designed, purpose-built art gallery with Indigenous living at its heart,” he said. “It’s not like this building can be plopped down anywhere in the world, it really speaks to Vancouver. It is very much about this place, this culture, and it will be a huge expression of the Coast Salish worldview.”

A person walks by Vancouver Art Gallery construction site, pictured on Thursday, March 21, 2024.
The new gallery, designed by Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron, will be nine levels. (Nav Rahi/CBC)

Kiendl said he hopes the new building will help build awareness around Indigenous culture for both tourists and locals, and will instil pride in the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish Nations.

Coming up with a design that would honour Vancouver’s past while also embracing its future was of paramount importance to the four artists and the architects, said George.

“It had been a large discussion we had with the whole team and so what we landed on perfectly shows the unity and the harmony of the city, and the desire we have here to understand and respect and honour all of our collective histories,” she said.

“It is a huge honour to be able to work on a project of this magnitude, of this importance, and it’s an honour to speak on behalf of our Coast Salish families, our Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish and Musqueam people and our ancestors.”


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