I attended Westbank's Family + Friend's evening last week with Miss Caela (the 17 year old receptionist that hired me back in 2008) to check out their latest and most adventurous project to date to be completed by 2018.

The Exhibition

From a never-before publicly-shown Arthur Erickson 1955 sketch that set the agenda for Vancouverism, to renderings, models and videos illustrating the most adventurous building here in decades, the Gesamtkunstwerk exhibition explores the thinking behind contemporary city-building.  Design by the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) of New York and Copenhagen, this residential tower will rise above the north end of the Granville Bridge, with its adjacent low-rise retail and office buildings defining the new Beach District neighbourhood.  The show opens up the design, context and background of Vancouver House to public understanding with powerful visuals and commentary, showing how "Total Design" can transform contemporary high rise residential living through the synthesis of art, architecture, interior design, urbanism and energy with public-mindedness

The Idea

Gesamtkunstwerk was a new word in German used by composer Richard Wagner in the mid-19th century, then adopted by Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius in the 1920s as re-making the world through "Total Design" - the integration of all of the creative arts and all scales of design, 'from teaspoons to cities' according to the Bauhaus designers.  This is the only word that adequately describes the intentions by BIG as architects and Westbank as a developer for their Vancouver House development, with its ground-breaking organic forms in concrete, glass and copper, its thoughtful interiors and apartment appointments, its integration into the skyline, its tapping into Westbank's new "Creative Energy" community energy system, its inspiring public art by Rodney Graham, and its creation of significant new public spaces for the enjoyment of all Vancouverites.

Ian Gillespie, CEO of Westbank

The Presenter

Westbank is one of North America's leading real estate developers, creator of Fairmont Pacific Rim, Woodward's, Toronto and Vancouver Shangri-La Hotels, and TELUS Garden, one of the world' first LEED Platinum office towers.  Westbank projects have led the market both in design innovation and in creating value through ideas.  With a long0term commitment both to sustainability through such developments as the planned LEED Platinum Vancouver House and their community energy subsidiary, Creative Energy and also to public art, the firm has commissioned works from such leading artists such as Gwen Boyle, Dale Chihuly, Diana Thater, O Zhang, Ken Lum, Elspeth Pratt, Kota Ezawa,  Damian Moppett, Mark Lewis, Stan Douglas, Liam Gillick, Zhang Huan, Ron Terada and (at Vancouver House) Rodney Graham.

A few familiar faces from my office days.

Drinks, Hors d'oeuvres, and music

Sign of the times

Vancouver House Public Art by Rodney Graham

"Spinning Chandelier," by Vancouver artist Rodney Graham is a kinetic sculpture that will transform the vast, cathedral-like spaces under the Granville Street Bridge.  Graham's sculpture extends from his 2005 35-film loop installation Torqued Chandelier Release in which a crystal chandelier whirls rapidly as its supporting cable is unwound.  Installed under the bridge above the intersection of lower Granville with Beach Avenues, a monumental 14 by 21 foot faux glass recreation of the film's 18th century French chandelier will slowly orate and rise over the course of twenty-four hours, then once a day release and dynamically spin back to its starting point.  "Spinning Chandelier" will quickly become an urban icon, turning a dark under-bridge into the enjoyable focus of public celebration.

Giving Back: Home for Home Program

Westbank will be supporting the World Housing non-profit organization in this program by funding new homes for thousands of Third World families for every residence sold at Vancouver House.  

Gesamtkunstwerk Exhibition @ 1460 Howe Street

Visit for more info