About 60 feet up above street level at the northwest corner of the intersection of Cambie Street and Smithe Street in downtown Vancouver, the expansive underside of a newly built tower doubles as a blank canvas for the print of a giant painting.
Last year, construction on The Smithe tower at 885 Cambie Street reached completion, and one of the finishing touches was its public art component.
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The ceiling for the tower’s outdoor residential lounge amenity space on the fifth level features an enlarged painting of weaving branches and trees, backdropped by sharp fuchsia shades.
This public art installation, named Viewpoint, is by Ben Reeves — a Vancouver-based contemporary artist and professor at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. It spans 25 ft in width and 80 ft in length on the building’s sixth floor soffit.
Reeves first created a six-ft-tall oil painting on canvas, then photographed it for its careful digital reproduction and fabrication on nine stretched fabric panels by Barrisol BC. The artist worked with building owner Boffo Developments over the course of two years to create the installation.
Viewpoint’s impact on the public realm shines at nighttime, literally. Its backlighting filters through the bright colours of the fabric panels to create a glowing lantern effect for building’s outdoor common area and the intersection below — a hard to miss feature for all passersby.
The Smithe’s art installation on its amenity level is a beacon in the night. pic.twitter.com/R0Yer6Wm6c
— Kenneth Chan (@iamkennethchan) September 23, 2021
The Smithe is a 26-storey tower with about 100 condominium homes, plopped over 32,000 sq ft of office and street-level retail space within the four-storey podium. The design firm was GBL Architects.
In exchange for Vancouver City Council’s 2015 rezoning approval, the developer was required to provide a public art contribution of about $310,000.
As well, the project’s required community amenity contributions reached approximately $11.6 million, with $1.45 million from a heritage density transfer, $7.2 million cash to the municipal government towards an off-site non-market rental housing project in the immediate area, $1.45 million towards the Comox-Helmcken bike lane, and $1.45 million towards upgrades for the Vancouver Public Library’s Central Branch.