Last year, Sun columnist Miro Cernetig did a piece on the new convention centre expansion.
From a design perspective, the convention centre is esthetically underwhelming, more a triumph of engineering than architecture. The word mediocre comes up repeatedly whenever I ask people who watch these sort of things in the city.
“It’s not a terrible building,” says Gordon Price, director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University. “But it’s not a great building, either. We could and should do better.”
Actually, I was a bit more complimentary in the interview. No, it’s not going to be great building, competitive with other ‘iconic’ structures going up these days. But I think it’s successful in one remarkable way.
Large exhibition spaces are, unavoidably, big honkin’ boxes – usually with vast blank walls. This new box, placed on a prime piece of waterfront, actually complements the verticality of the Coal Harbour skyline when seen from Stanley Park. Seen from Coal Harbour Green, it plays well with the sails of the convention centre. Seen from Burrard Street, its glassy facade respects the view corridor and doesn’t overwhelm the Marine Building or present a blank wall to the city.
Altogether, a difficult building on a sensitive site that fits in well. Not great, but good.
But there’ll be more time to debate this point at the first “Paradise Builders” session the City Program is launching on Friday, February 1. Joint City Planning Director Brent Toderian, Globe and Mail architectural critic Trevor Boddy and others to discuss “The Challenges of Today’s Vancouver” (and whether our dearth of iconic structures is really a problem), at 7 pm, SFU Harbour Centre. Reservations are required. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 778-782.5100.