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This is the conceptual design for the new Vancouver Maritime Museum in Coal Harbour

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Kenneth Chan May 17, 2018 1:50 pm 3,201

A preliminary conceptual design by an internationally renowned architect shows what the new state-of-the-art building for the Vancouver Maritime Museum (VMM) could look like in Coal Harbour in downtown Vancouver.

Last year, local developer Concord Pacific approached the VMM over the idea of providing the museum with a new home in a significantly more centralized, accessible, and attractive location. It would be built on the large six-acre site of the 510-room Westin Bayshore Hotel, which was purchased by the developer in 2015 for $290 million.

Westin Bayshore Hotel Coal Harbour

The exterior of the Westin Bayshore Hotel in Coal Harbour. (Google Maps

And the site can fit much more than just an expanded museum, as there will also be residential, a new hotel, and park space on the lower roof.

The entire redevelopment is being designed by Italy-based Renzo Piano Building Workshop Architects, the same firm behind Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, The Shard in London, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

A highly conceptual cross-section rendering of the redevelopment shows at least two towers and the new VMM located next to the water with three underground levels and the relocated St. Roch vessel as its centrepiece.

Vancouver Maritime Museum Coal Harbour

Preliminary conceptual rendering of the new Vancouver Maritime Museum in Coal Harbour. (Renzo Piano Workshop Architects / Ema Peter Photography / Instagram)

VMM Executive Director Dr. Joost Schokkenbroek previously told Daily Hive the museum will have a floor area of up to 91,000 sq. ft., which is close to four times the size of the current 1959-built museum, housing the St. Roch, located in Kitsilano.

This building is antiquated, suffers from leaky roof issues, and other problems, including being located on a floodplain. It has such a small floor area that museum curators can exhibit just 5% of its collection – including artifacts from the Titanic – at any time.

Vancouver Maritime Museum

The existing home of the Vancouver Maritime Museum in Kitsilano. ( Autumn Sky Photography)

St. Roch Vancouver Maritime Museum

The St. Roch inside the Vancouver Maritime Museum in Kitsilano. This 1928-built vessel was the first vessel to cross through the Northwest Passage from west to east, and the first ship to completely circumnavigate North America. (Michael Stevens / Flickr)

The museum portion of the redevelopment could cost nearly $100 million, but this is expected to be funded by Concord Pacific in what could be one of the largest community amenity contributions from a redevelopment towards Vancouver’s arts and culture scene.

“The museum will be enabled to take much better care of its collections; increase its credibility amongst all kinds of varied audiences and peer institutions,” said Schokkenbroek.

He added that it is a “fantastic opportunity [and] creates a win-win situation” for the parties involved.”

“[It] will be an important addition to the cultural landscape of Vancouver, especially as it seeks to connect with indigenous people and their maritime heritage… [and it will] find a much more prominent podium to be of interest to next generations of museum-goers. We need to reach out to younger people and make it a wonderful experience for them to come to our place.”

This is not the first time the VMM seriously considered plans to reinvent itself with a new home. In 2008, a proposal was created to move the VMM to a new 110,000 sq. ft. National Maritime Centre for the Pacific and the Arctic on the waterfront site of Lot 5 of the shipyards in Lower Lonsdale in North Vancouver.

National Maritime Centre for the Pacific and the Arctic

Artistic rendering of the cancelled National Maritime Centre for the Pacific and the Arctic. (City of North Vancouver)

The project was spearheaded by the City of North Vancouver, and it initially had a $106-million project scope. But due to funding challenges, as the project was largely dependent on senior government funding, the design had to be scaled down to $90 million and then again to $70 million.

The federal government committed $20 million, but this funding was contingent on an equal contribution from the provincial government, which was provided. However, a further request of $20 million to $25 million from the provincial government was not granted.

With senior government funding later completely withdrawn, North Vancouver in 2012 cancelled the museum project and moved towards a different direction for the site. Early in 2019, the $35-million redevelopment on Lot 5 of The Shipyards will open with a large covered outdoor plaza that doubles as a wintertime ice rink, retail, restaurants, and a hotel.

With files from Eric Zimmer

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Kenneth Chan
National Features Editor at Daily Hive, the evolution of Vancity Buzz. He covers local architecture, urban issues, politics, business, retail, economic development, transportation and infrastructure, and the travel industry. Kenneth is also a Co-Founder of New Year's Eve Vancouver. Connect with him at kenneth[at]dailyhive.com

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