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Opinions diverge on future of Vancouver Art Gallery

An interesting debate is swirling around the future of the – one in which everyone, it seems, has something something…

By Jessica Linzey , in Beyond Vancouverism: Urban design under shadows of glass and concrete , on March 22, 2010 Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The VAG is currently housed in the city's old courthouse. It has 41,400 square feet of exhibition space.

An interesting debate is swirling around the future of the – one in which everyone, it seems, has something something to say, including

The discussion is broadly centered around whether to move the VAG to a new site or refurbish – where only three per cent of its permanent collection can be exhibited at any one time – at Howe and Georgia.

Abe wanted the gallery to stay put, believing as he did that the building represents “some of the finest work of two of British Columbia’s finest architects,” namely and . He wasn’t the only one.

argue, like Abe did, that the gallery’s location is too good to give up, and that with the site could be successfully expanded – perhaps with satellite exhibition halls around the city (see the in Los Angeles), making a gallery tour of Vancouver a possibility.

VAG an old city-owned bus depot site across from the at Cambie and Georgia streets.

In some ways, the latter is ideal: the design possibilities are exciting, and locating it here would give the city a of sorts.

But the site is prime real estate, which means the gallery might have to share the site with a condo development. It also begs the question: who should design it?

To the first point, a gallery sharing a site with a tower would not be unprecedented. The in New York City not only shares its block with a tower, it raised money for an expansion by selling part of its lot to a real estate company that plans to build .

The VAG is eyeing the Larwill Park site at Cambie and Georgia for its new home, where it hopes to double its current exhibition space. It is the last bit of undeveloped land in downtown Vancouver.

It’s the kind of design solution we may increasingly see as the city continues to grow and densify – but it may not be the right move for the VAG.

As for who should design it, some might say this is Vancouver’s chance to bring in a to give the city a signature piece. Think ’s in Bilbao.

Others could argue this is a chance to show off the great depth of our growing architecture community, and the contract should go to a local.

In an last week, principal Michael Green suggested a third alternative: hire an architect – regardless of pedigree – who will build something magnificent born of the unique place Vancouver is, something that reflects who we are.

Whatever the outcome, it will be a thought-provoking conversation to follow in the coming months, and one all Vancouverites have a stake in.

Photos courtesy of Flickr users popejon2 and jmv.