If you live in Vancouver, you know that the Vancouver Art Gallery is housed in the old law courts, an imposing neo-classical building designed by celebrity architect Francis Rattenbury in 1906. What you may not know, and I did not until stumbling over a photo recently, was that the VAG started out in a gorgeous art deco building at 1145 West Georgia, a few blocks west from its current location.
The original 1931 building—the same year the VAG was founded—was designed by local architects Sharp and Thompson. It fit perfectly into the largely residential West End neighborhood of the times, had a main hall, two large galleries and two smaller ones with a sculpture hall, library and lecture hall. The names of what were considered great painters of the times (all non-Canadian, and all men) were carved at the entrance.
Charles Marega was commissioned to sculpture busts of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci which flanked either side of the front door. Architect George Sharp, a respected artist, taught at the Vancouver School of Art.
After the war, Group of Seven artist Lawren Harris, who lived on ritzy Belmont Avenue, raised $300,000, and the building was expanded to three times its original size. It could now accommodate 157 Emily Carr works, and the building was left alone for another three decades.
In 1983 the VAG moved into its current digs at the old courthouse. Two years later the art deco building was demolished. Now we have the Trump Tower and the FortisBC building in its old space.
For more in Our Missing Heritage Series see:
or just go to Our Missing Heritage for the complete, sad list.
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