A compelling video from 2014 (quoting 2014 budget prices) is narrated by Vancouver architect Peter Cardew about how the current Vancouver Art Gallery could be renewed and expanded. Peter Cardew  was commissioned to look at the gallery spaces a decade earlier, and his take is very similar to that of the late architect Bing Thom’s-the current location of the art gallery is the centre of pedestrian traffic and importance in the downtown. Bing Thom Architects developed a “post-gallery” plan below the building’s North Plaza.

Like many Vancouverites,  the late Bing Thom architect extraordinaire loved the current site of the Vancouver Art Gallery on Hornby which is the place to sit, to people watch and functions as the navel of the city. Bing proposed a remarkable redo of the old gallery once vacated  to include a light-filled entrance to a 1,950 seat underground concert hall, a multi-use theatre and retail stores. Importantly he also proposed reopening the Georgia Street entrance of the building and focusing a new plaza on Georgia Street as the City’s primary public space and square.


Peter Cardew thought the Vancouver Art Gallery should stay on this site. In  this article  Peter Cardew thought “ as much as 176,000 square feet of additional space can be added to the historic courthouse building by creating additional underground spaces underneath the outdoor plaza facing West Georgia Street. It includes an underground “Grand Hall” measuring approximately 300 feet long and 70 feet high that incorporates a glass ceiling from the plaza to allow natural light to stream in. The vision also proposes to renovate the existing gallery spaces and repurpose UBC Robson Square into added space for the museum.”

At that time in 2014 dollars, Peter Cardew estimated that the cost of  changes would be $100 million less than the proposed $300 million dollar Larwill Park site  on Cambie Street across from the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. And there are precedents-both the Louvre in Paris and the Tate Modern in London expanded their facilities at existing galleries.

“I don’t know any gallery in the world that has such a prime site as the Vancouver Art Gallery does. If it were a vacant site that is where the Vancouver Art Gallery would be.” -Peter Cardew



  1. A fantastic piece, thank you Sandy! It is timely to revive the idea of working with this central gallery. Given the deep silence about fundraising for the new site, and the design’s unpopularity with many, let’s hope this gets some traction!

  2. I’ve always heard the idea kicked about that the Museum of Vancouver would move from their current location at the Planetarium in to the Courthouse building if V.A.G. were to actually move.
    Having a historical museum focusing on the city in the Courthouse location would certainly continue to support all of the good things that the art gallery provides today externally. With any luck a second new cultural strip would start to form to the east at the new gallery location. What’s not to like?

  3. It looks cool, but is it certified by an engineer? I mean, can the building still support itself if you carve that much out from under it?

    1. Pretty easy from a structural point of view. As heavy as these things seem, the loads are actually tiny by comparison to truly big buildings, like hundred storey point towers.

  4. When I saw this a couple of years ago, I thought it was the best idea.
    It remains the best idea; the most sensitive to the city’s needs, the arts and the public intrest.

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