Though originating in the U.S. with the 1907 opening of the Fairmont San Francisco, luxury hotel chain The Fairmont today is best known for its historic properties across Canada. In Vancouver alone, it boasts four hotels. But with the Pacific Rim property in downtown, the chain is very much shaking off any sense of stuffiness, offering one of the most forward-thinking stay options in the city – thanks to its dedication to modern art.
The hotel was designed by James Cheng, an architect who blends elements of Asian design with modern west-coast demands for the hi-tech. His green glass towers have come to define the term “Vancouverism.” But it’s inside the hotel that something quite pioneering stands out once in the lobby. Owners Westbank Projects weren’t simply looking to fill with hotel with themed art. They created the hotel driven by their own interest to build around the art.
No wonder then that the property contains some of the most outstanding art works in the city. So much so that it has created a self-guided walking audio tour, called “The Art of Development,” downloadable as a podcast, for anyone to explore the extensive collection.
The tour begins outside, where the exterior of floors five through 22 are emblazoned with a piece by British conceptual artists Liam Gillick. Titled “lying on top of a building the clouds looked no nearer than when I was lying on the street,” it features the passage of the title replicated in Helvetica bold on each level, each two-foot high. The piece is typical of the artist’s penchant for playing with sculptural forms of architecture, where he can place integrated graphic design that challenges the common and elaborate explanatory texts one usually finds at significant buildings.
The Lobby Lounge features another site-specific work, this time by local artist Neil Campbell. “McQueen” is a two-part sculpture that challenges our visual perception, using circular tubes and bold colors to encourage viewers to consider our experience of space.
Other pieces include “The Rising” by Chinese artist Zhang Huan, depicting winged birds in formation, an enormous 9,500 square foot paneling titled “Forest Screen” by James Cheng and Adeline Lai at the front of the hotel’s exterior, and Joseph Wu’s “Origami Light Sculpture,” a stunning 180 foot long paper sculpture on the ceiling of the hotel’s mezzanine and restaurant area.
The hotel currently offers a ‘Haute Art’ package to entice visitors to the city to get to know more about the emerging art scene via its own collection, and offers to chance to visit the Vancouver Art Gallery with exclusive access to parts under renovation that remain unseen to the general public.
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