I am shocked at the conceptual design that was unveiled last week, proposed for the permanent Whistler home of the superb art collection of businessman philanthropist, Michael Audain.
Certainly we were all thrilled by the prospect of having this superb art collection permanently housed in our Village, and quite rightly, our mayor and municipal officials appropriately and without reservation welcomed this wonderful cultural amenity with open arms, including tax concessions and the virtual donation of a choice site to house the museum, the construction cost of which is also a gift from Mr. Audain.
What few of us expected was a conceptual museum design that, according to renderings released to date, appears to be a harsh and forbidding geometric horizontal black monolith with no relationship to human scale or the magnificent surroundings of our beautiful valley. The initial conceptual design resembles a structure that might have been designed by a Grade 2 student armed with a pencil, ruler, and little imagination — as sympathetic to its surroundings as an oil tanker plopped into the middle of Whistler's Olympic Plaza.
Architect John Patkau apparently belongs to the school of design which inspired what has been correctly criticized as Vancouver's ugliest building: the Vancouver Aquatic Centre on English Bay's waterfront near Vancouver's Burrard Bridge. Funded by the public, this angular monstrosity is an assault on the optic nerve, and does not have a single window that looks out on the water.
Vancouver also has superb examples of public buildings, including the world famous Museum of Anthropology designed by internationally famed architect Arthur Erickson, located at the tip of Point Grey, overlooking Georgia Strait at the University of British Columbia.
Perhaps it should be no surprise that Mr. Patkau's concept is a geometric horror, since he is the designer of what many feel is Whistler's ugliest structure: the Origami House located in Sunridge, depicted on the front cover of this week's Pique newsmagazine. I see no reason to patronize an architect who aspires to create notoriety by designing something that is controversial, ugly — or perhaps even worse — boring. Many of us have seen more attractive warehouses.
I hope that Mr. Audain, members of our municipal government, and the public will unite in rejecting this atrocity, that Mr Patkau will be discharged, and that a number of architectural firms will be asked to submit preliminary design concepts, from which a final choice will be made, and developed, following due process including public input.
Many of us were hoping for a design that is welcoming, full of natural light, and open to its exterior surroundings. The objective should be something that our small community, as well as the rest of Canada, will be proud of. Mr. Audain's superb cultural gift should not suffer the indignity of being housed in a black bunker.