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March 29, 2001 Faculty of Fine Arts kicks off building fund








The new Fine Arts building at the corner of Ste. Catherine and Mackay streets will resemble an artist's loft, full of space and light, and feature galleries and a sculpture court.


Architect Bruce Kuwabara


"The site is absolutely remarkable," said architect Bruce Kuwabara.

photo by Christian Fleury


by Barbara Black

The Faculty of Fine Arts launched its internal building fund on March 22 with a presentation by the leading architect in the new downtown construction project.

Bruce Kuwabara, of Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg, flew in from Toronto during a snowstorm to give an appreciative audience of about 40 people his thoughts on the ambitious plans to build a downtown landmark called “Le Quartier Concordia.”

“This is a very, very important project for us,” Kuwabara said. “The site is absolutely remarkable.” The firm is not simply trying to build separate buildings for the visual arts, Engineering and Computer Science and the John Molson School of Business, he said, but to create a new home for “an urban powerhouse, a campus closely connected to the idea of Montreal.”

Kuwabara and his firm have a strong affinity with the art world, and have designed many buildings for cultural institutions, notably the Design Exchange and the Carsen Centre for the National Ballet of Canada, both in Toronto. They have also designed buildings for the University of Toronto, where Kuwabara teaches architecture.

Concordia’s own reputation in the visual arts, Kuwabara said, makes it essential to make an architectural statement through this project. Thus the design calls for the Fine Arts building to be right on Ste. Catherine St., a low-rise three-storey building with the much taller Engineering tower behind it.

Galleries and commercial spaces – Kuwabara suggested art supplies – will be at storefront level. Inside, the building will resemble an artist’s loft, full of space and light. There will be generously large staircases linked to the outer walls, because, Kuwabara said with a smile, “all the best conversations take place on staircases.” As much as possible, it will be a “green” building, with an outdoor sculpture court, greenery and efficient use of energy.

Jacob Fichten and Gerald Soiferman were also on hand at the presentation. Fichten Soiferman Architects, of Montreal, are the managing partners in the project.

Richard Renaud is vice-chairman of the Board of Governors, chairman of the advancement commitee, and chairman of the steering committee for the Concordia Building Fund Campaign. He told the audience that about $20 million has been identified toward the new Fine Arts building, about half from the recent capital campaign, and half from the government to compensate for getting out of rented property. Another $20 million must be raised.

Himself a generous donor and friend of the university, Mr. Renaud quoted Sir Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

Rector Frederick Lowy happily held aloft a copy of En Route, Air Canada’s on-flight publication, whose March issue has a cover story on the Kuwabara architectural firm and illustrates it with the drawings for Concordia’s buildings.

He said that the only obstacle to the project, aside from the needed funds, is possible opposition to the removal of the derelict York Cinema, on the corner of Mackay and Ste. Catherine Sts.

“We are not Philistines, or anti-preservation,” Dr.Lowy said. The building is too far gone to renovate, he added. It would have to be re-constructed, and there is neither the money for that, nor the need for such a facility at the university.

In fact, he added, enrolment in both Fine Arts and Engineering and Computer Science has risen to such a degree that when the engineering/visual arts complex opens, it will already be filled to capacity.

Dean Christopher Jackson thanked his faculty and staff for turning out for the launch, “particularly those in the performing arts, whose building is that much further away.” After the current projects are realized, a performing arts complex will be built on the Loyola Campus.

Dean Jackson is chair of the internal building fundraising campaign of the Faculty of Fine Arts. There are six vice-chairs: Paul Langdon (Art Education/Creative Arts Therapies), Loren Lerner (Art History), Lydia Sharman, assisted by Karen Langshaw (Design Art), Michael Montanaro (Performing Arts) and Penny Cousineau (Studio Arts).