The Mat

An Unsolicited Proposal for a New Vancouver Art Gallery

Vancouver Art Gallery Needs a New Home

The old courthouse, its current home, is too constricting for the exhibition of world-class art but it has demonstrated that a museum in the heart of the city plays an important urban role beyond the gallery walls. The cultural, political and economic heart of Vancouver beats in the compact spaces surrounding the VAG because public spaces like those don’t exist elsewhere in the city.

The Favoured Site…

…Of those available to the Gallery, is an empty block at Cambie and Georgia – Larwill Park. This area of the city hosts a collection of notable pieces of architecture, all of which occupy most of a city block: the Library, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, and the CBC building. These projects are isolated, each with their own public plazas, big enough only to host a small performance or market. A new VAG on this site would face the same isolation. There is an opportunity to deliver Vancouver much more than a solitary museum, but it requires a site with greater opportunities.

In Recent Years…

…the City has been preparing for the removal of the “Granville loops” at the north end of the Granville bridge. Once cleared, this site will be even larger than Larwill Park. It’s aligned on one of the most important axes in Vancouver and is the doorway to the downtown peninsula for people arriving by foot, bike, bus and car. A new Vancouver Art Gallery on this site would be transformative.

The City of Chicago was given a similar opportunity…

In the early 1990’s the city began a project that would become Millennium Park. For much of its history, the city centre was separated from the lakefront by impassable rail lines. Grasping a historic opportunity, the city built a car park over a major portion of those rail lines, installed a park on the roof, and filled it with public art, performance spaces, gardens and cycling facilities. Millennium Park became an icon of the city overnight and is now one of its most treasured public places.


A failure of imagination makes it impossible to be bold. Once the potential in an opportunity has been glimpsed, it is difficult to accept anything less.

Start the Conversation

The search for a new home for the Vancouver Art Gallery is a historic opportunity for this city. The opportunity must be leveraged to make the whole city better, more cohesive, and more engaged.

Let’s start a public discussion. Please share this proposal to get the conversation started.



This project was designed and presented by Tony Osborn Architecture in January 2013. We believe in the importance of public imagination and have created this project to give shape to it.

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