"Our goal is to raise public awareness of architecture in Vancouver while providing our students with greater exposure to urban issues in architecture," says Sandy Hirshen, director of the school. "The location is also a convenient base for outreach efforts to the under-serviced areas of Vancouver, such as the Downtown Eastside."
Hirshen wants to explore ways to work with activist groups, such as the Downtown Eastside Residents' Association (DERA). The school has worked with Downtown Eastside groups in the past, including the Aboriginal Health Centre.
"We want to create relationships with these groups and determine how we can balance our educational requirements with community service," he says.
The gallery and studio comprise about 198 square metres of remodelled space on the ground floor of a historic building located across from Victory Square on the edge of Gastown. Renovated thanks to a fund-raising effort led by the Friends of the School of Architecture (FOSA), the gallery space opened recently with an exhibition entitled Architectural Photographers: Vancouver in Black and White.
"Between 300 and 400 people came to the exhibition opening," says Hirshen. "There's a real yearning for knowledge of architecture in Vancouver."
The studio space will come into use next fall with a planned joint studio project on the southeast False Creek area, involving students from Architecture and Landscape Architecture at UBC. The school has an additional space of roughly the same size in the basement of the building, but has not yet raised the money required to renovate the space.
Hirshen says he hopes the gallery's proximity to other institutions downtown, such as SFU, BCIT and Vancouver Community College, as well as to the Architectural Institute of B.C., will facilitate collaboration and joint projects.
"The location is also central to the architectural profession because of the large number of offices in the Gastown area," he says. "We hope it will become a magnet for general outreach initiatives to the community and the professions."
The gallery will also have a retail component, selling exhibition photographs as well as books, monographs and student-designed furniture.
"It's a really exciting time for the school," says Hirshen. "Not only have we increased our downtown presence, we've also helped renew an old building and have become part of an effort to rejuvenate Victory Square."
The first exhibit arising from research within the School of Architecture will be on display at the gallery from April 16 to May 9. Entitled Access to Architecture: Intentions and Product, it surveys the work of local architects Busby and Associates.
The installation will be accompanied by the first in a series of catalogues focusing on architects from the region and authored by faculty members Raymond Cole and Sherry McKay.
The gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.