Monday, November 24, 2008

Summerland in Vancouver

The Contemporary Art Gallery is currently presenting new works by Vancouver artist Shannon Oksanen. 

Titled Summerland, the exhibition consists of a remake/meditation on the waterskiing scene in the film Viva Las Vegas as well as a series of paintings and drawings that extends the Elvis theme. 

The works comment on the shifting landscape of American thought and culture during the period (mid-late 1960's) and draw on aesthetics and nostalgia, among other things, to illustrate this change.

Shannon Oksanen will give an artist talk at the CAG on Thursday, December 4 at 7pm. The exhibition runs until January 18, 2009.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gingerbread Modern

Creative Room and Vancouver Special have launched a sweet competition: re-imagining the gingerbread house. 

A broad cross-section of Vancouver architects and designers have translated the traditional gingerbread house into modern form, including Busby, Perkins & Will, D'Arcy Jones Design, UBC Sala and Bricault Design.  

The competition will be judged by Patricia Patkau, Ken Lum and Christina Ritchie and takes place at Vancouver Special on November 25 at 7pm. Houses are currently up for auction, with proceeds to support Pivot Legal Society. 

Information and photos, including bidding forms can be found here and the ten gingerbread houses can be viewed in person at Vancouver Special, 3612 Main Street, Vancouver.

Special mention to Bricault Design (who make excellent use of candied textures) and D'Arcy Jones Design (whose entry is a beautifully reduced West Coast Modern in the woods).

Monday, November 17, 2008

Boddy and the Globe

Whither Trevor Boddy in the Real Estate section of
the Globe and Mail?

The Boddy-curated Vancouverism exhibition opens in Paris this week (after a summer run in London) but let's hope for a return to the ink-stained pages of the national daily. The Kelly Deck decorating feature doesn't carry quite the same bite.

In the meantime, check out Timothy Taylor's illuminating bi-weekly feature on urban issues and life in the city here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chan Centre

I overlooked this building for a long time. It's easy to miss, tucked away in the lush environs of the University of BC campus. Having recently attended a few shows here reminded me what an exceptional building Bing Thom Architects created, and what a welcome addition it has been to both the campus and the city.

The most striking feature– aside from the main concert hall– is the glass wall that borders the main lobby. Approximately two storeys high, it faces a mature stand of cedars, firs and west coast shrubbery. This backdrop perfectly mirrors the large Gordon Smith canvas (with a curved frame to follow the arc of the wall) that greets attendees upon entering the building.

Remarkably, the location of the building on the site was determined by the existing stand of trees. The university had wanted to take advantage of the potential views that would open up by razing the forest, but Thom (advised by Cornelia Oberlander) was insistent that all trees should be retained. In Neill Archer Roan's Scale + Timbre: The Chan Centre For the Performing Arts, Thom says that "even if you take the trees down, the mountains are dark at night, when most people would experience the view. But if you light the trees, you will have a foreground that can become a stage set to the building".

He further notes that once "we finally agreed on the fate of the forest, we set about surveying every tree. In the end, we planted the building around each and every tree". Additionally, the 200 or so azaleas and rhododendrons were moved off site during construction and replanted afterwards.

You only have to experience the space once to see what a commendable decision this was. Thom preserved the forest and managed to situate what is a relatively tall building on the campus comfortably within the surrounding environs. It also sits at bottom of a slope, further reducing its vertical impact. Now a decade or so on, the Chan has settled into its site and Thom's desire that the forest relate directly to the building feels fully realized.

The greater mass of the Chan, determined largely by the cylinders of the entry and the central hall, further blends with the site through the use of materials like wood (interior), muted gray zinc panels (exterior) and concrete (both interior and exterior). The result is a building that exudes west coast character, the connection between landscape and building strengthening each in turn to create a cultural institution of the highest order. 

And the sound and acoustics in the main hall? Much like the overall design of the Chan, it's sublime.

Monday, November 10, 2008

B.C. Binning Event

The Land Conservancy is hosting an event at the Binning residence in West Vancouver at 7pm on November 21, 2008. Featuring talks by Ian Thom and Adele Weder - both of whom contributed to the book B.C. Binning - the evening will showcase the building itself and Binning's role as both architect (assisted by Ned Pratt) and artist. The evening is the first public event to create a 300k endowment to help maintain the house. Tickets and information can be found here.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Modernist Realty

Vancouver realtor Jan Alexander has recently begun to focus on Modern properties in Vancouver. Currently she is offering the 1982 Hwang Residence, designed by Arthur Erickson. The house is virtually hidden behind a fence/green wall along a busy road - a divide that gives way inside to a pond-like water feature and mature gardens designed by Cornelia Oberlander. Noteworthy is the fact that in the early 1980's Erickson was designing very few residential commissions, focusing instead on larger projects that were on his plate, and so the house is a rare example of his work on a smaller scale from that time. It is also an example of the Erickson/Oberlander dynamic writ small.