Vancouver Art Gallery Image © Jeff Hitchcock

Is there a Bilbao-like edifice in Vancouver’s future? The Vancouver Art Gallery, the fifth largest in Canada, has just announced an international call for submissions. Gallery director Kathleen Bartels is kicking things off with a request for qualifications, asking participants to list, among other things, “all their major public buildings of $ 40 million or more completed or commenced since 2000 plus a list of all museum or comparable cultural or exhibition facilities.” The Gallery also wants to know the applicants’ experience with LEED buildings.

A 48-page document outlines the gallery’s goals and space requirements.

Submissions must be received by 5:00 PM Friday, 4th October 2013, after which a 13-member jury of architects, artists and developers will compile a shortlist. The winning firms will then be invited to submit specific plans.

A new home for the Art Gallery has been a contentious issue in Vancouver. The Gallery has outgrown its present location, an elegant and refurbished court house and alternatives have ranged from expanding its current home to building a series of mini galleries to taking over the former Post Office, a large Modernist structure from the 1950’s.

In April, City Council agreed to lease a downtown parking lot to the Gallery on the condition it secures $150 million in federal and provincial funding by April 2015. At the moment, that goal has not been realized. A new purpose-built 310,000 square foot Gallery has been pegged at between $235 and $265 million.

Gallery Director Bartels is clear that the design process will become part of her fundraising campaign. “so people can really understand what it’s going to look like” and thus generate public excitement and support. The Gallery’s RFQ calls for “a great architectural achievement in museum design.”

Interested architects may contact the Gallery at to receive a fact sheet, a copy of the RFQ and a list of the jury members. The Gallery will hold a Pre-Submittal Site Visit, including a presentation of the Gallery’s project objectives and a tour of the existing museum and the new site on September 25th.

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