Art and architecture merge on the towers of Vancouver, but is cultural influence more than an illusion?




Lyse Lemieux’s works, Personnages, present nine figurative silhouettes inlaid in a black mosaic that cover the columns on the ground floor of the south facade of the Grosvenor Pacific Tower

In Vancouver this week, art meets architecture on the facades of two downtown buildings. On Thursday, the new Grosvenor Pacific Tower on Hornby Street, designed by ACDF Architecture and IBI Group Inc, will be officially unveiled, with new mosaic works by Vancouver artist Lyse Lemieux adorning its ground floor entrances. And later in the day, Arthur Erickson’s 1969 Macmillan Bloedel office tower (designed with his then-partner Geoffrey Massey), will become a screen for artistic projections designed by go2productions focusing on life and cultures. masterpieces by the internationally renowned Canadian architect.

Both projects follow the city’s penchant for developer-focused public art. In the case of the Pacific, Grosvenor Americas commissioned the work from Lemieux, while the after dark screenings on the MacMillan Bloedel building are being organized by Colliers International, the rental agents of a triumvirate of new owners who have acquired the famous tower in 2019 and renamed it to Arthur Erickson Place.

Lemieux’s works, called Characters, present nine figurative silhouettes integrated in a black mosaic which cover five columns on the ground floor of the south facade, completing the white and gray stone facade of the tower with its geometrically articulated balconies. Rightly so, they are inspired, the artist says, by ancient columns made in the form of standing female figures, the best-known examples of which can be seen at the Erechtheion temple on the Acropolis in Athens. Lemieux says that her works are “modern Caryatids”, which she hopes to be “connected, and in conversation as much with the activity in the lobby of the Pacific building as with the activity in the street.” The characters, she adds, “have no other specific role than to witness and observe the activity that defines and surrounds them”.


The new Grosvenor Pacific Tower on Hornby Street

They certainly have a lot to observe in a neighborhood in transition. The Grosvenor Pacific complex, whose sub-penthouse was recently sold for just $ 7 million, also includes an original Victorian yellow house now relocated to the lane. “Leslie House is one of the oldest remaining homes in downtown Vancouver and is a reminder that this area was once filled with many other homes like this one,” says Michael Ward, senior vice president and general manager in Vancouver for Grosvenor Americas. The area is now largely full of luxury towers.


Arthur Erickson’s MacMillan Bloedel office building in 1969

Meanwhile, several blocks northwest of the MacMillan Bloedel Building, named after a national logging company when the area’s largest industry was in trees and not in real estate, the public can watch a six-night digital light show featuring Arthur Erickson’s work projected onto his Brutalist Beauty.

The visionary architect’s 1957 sketch of Vancouver – then a small, working-class port town – as a city of towers by the sea has now become a reality, although the public-minded Erickson may also find it too out of reach for most citizens. The show, nicknamed Erickson revealed, boasts of “bold and bright optical illusions.” If they could revive the city as a place where young artists and architects could afford to live, that would definitely be a nice hat trick.


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