DS+R: Urban Metabolic Machine

Vancouver Art Museum

Diller Scofidio + Renfro

The Vancouver Art Gallery will strive to become one of the most environmentally sustainable museums in Canada and reflect the distinctiveness and vitality of Vancouver as a place. Urban Sustainability is a challenge that requires an understanding of both the social and infrastructural fabric unique to each city. Our design approach will investigate opportunities to integrate core concepts from the 10 Goals identified as the path for Vancouver to be one of the greenest cities in North America.

As a member of the land marked Robson Square, the art gallery was part of an initiative to bring the character of Vancouver's ecological context into the urban fabric to raise awareness and improve the social and environmental health of the city. Moving forward, our design approach will be to embrace this part of the Art Gallery's public identity and define a strategy that speaks to the next generation of environmental consciousness with a focus on developing neighborhood-scaled sustainability strategies.

The biggest challenge facing urban environments this century is providing the resources required to support increased population densities within the means of established infrastructural systems. Public open space, local food and water supply, and energy sharing strategies are critical components to resolving this challenge and are emerging interests in your new neighborhood. The question for us became ... could the Art Gallery design be the ... tie / knot ... to the 'community,' their food, and it's relationship to power?

Feeding the billions of people within Urban Centers around the world is perhaps the biggest threat to defining a sustainable path. It is what should be the next step to greening the urbanite's conscience ... and art has played a vital role historically in 'mobilizing the power of the public.'

Our design places focus on closely managing ‘heat exchanges’ during the Vancouver shoulder seasons - establishing gallery spaces zoned within the building that have smart membranes that that harness the particular quality of the season (such as light, breeze, or humidity) to improve comfort as one transitions from one type of climate controlled space to another as well as add flexibility to event types in galleries.

We will integrate building system strategies that provide warmth and air directly to the people creating levels of comfort not found in more traditionally conditioned buildings. These techniques are less energy intensive and allow for more natural air movements through the building extracting heat, reducing drafts and improving acoustics.

In the end, the goal is to create a building for Art that participates in the teaching, learning, and socializing. We believe that sustainability can be part of that experience; a place where people can develop an awareness of the building’s relationship with the urban fabric while learning about how the Art Gallery is engaging in local and global initiatives - like Plan 2020 - to adapt and find a more productive and desirable relationships with the natural world.