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.
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
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.
Concordias 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 artists 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
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 Canadas
on-flight publication, whose March issue has a cover story on the Kuwabara
architectural firm and illustrates it with the drawings for Concordias
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).