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DAS Team Wins Bid for Frank Lloyd Wright Banff Pavilion Update

The department Banff Pavilion Team

Photo: (from left to right) Hitesh Doshi, Paul Poh, Zaiyi Liao, Yew-Thong Leong, Albert Smith, and Kendra Schank Smith (Ramani Ramakrishnan not pictured). Credit: Spencer Turcotte

For 25 years, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Banff Pavilion stood on the bank of the Bow River, a testament to Prairie style and social functionality. However, after over two decades of detrimental freezing and flooding, the Banff Pavilion was demolished. The site stood vacant and unpurposed for the next 78 years, until a team of Ryerson University professors entered a bid in the FLW Revival Initiative.

On August 31, 2017, Ryerson University won the right to update Frank Lloyd Wright’s Banff Pavilion. A team of seven Ryerson professors, nominally led by Professor Yew-Thong Leong, will draw the plans reconstructing Wright’s vision of the Banff Pavilion. Ryerson won the bid for a reason. In recent coverage by the Ryersonian, external link, Leong notes that “We took a team approach, something we felt would be very important to be successful not just in winning the bid but also completing the project. All seven of us are equal contributors and the FLW Revival Initiative recognized our individual strengths, our aggregate abilities and the team spirit we brought to the proposal.” The project involves taking the original plans of the Banff Pavilion and faithfully representing them in 21st century standards.

The design team consists of seven Ryerson professors, now affectionately called the Group of 7. It includes architects and engineers with specialties in historical restoration, environmental systems and controls, project management, and architectural modeling and building performance. The team’s collaborative approach and diversity of skills made sure the bid was a team effort, and a team win.

The Banff Pavilion was the only public building Frank Lloyd Wright designed in Canada. Leong notes that this is a project that “is something that an architect would never even dream of, nevermind get the chance to work on. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity…” The FLW Pavilion location is sited well, and it is the team’s intent to reproduce the building faithfully while completing secondary research that contributes to a body of knowledge and to educational engagement. This project is a design collaboration that intends to remediate the site’s flooding and prevent future instances of environmental damage while creating a space for the future. Once completed the revived FLW Banff Pavilion will house events from social gatherings to weddings while faithfully representing the vision of the original building. This is truly a project of revival and long-lasting legacy to be realized through the focus and collaboration of Ryerson’s team. Leong aptly notes that “Architecture is all teamwork. The whole concept of a star-architect is a myth, and we – and I – work hard to break that perception.”

After the original FLW Banff Pavilion was demolished its legacy existed only in drawings and linen, a small reminder of the scope of a building that represented the confluence of prairie design and social purpose. The Banff Pavilion will be loyally recreated in its original design, and after nearly 100 years once again stand to serve local community pursuits.

“We are thrilled to be part of this project,” says Leong. This departmental legacy will give those at Ryerson a connection to their very own Canadian Frank Lloyd Wright building, a treasure of rare proportions. “We hope our research and work will make a significant contribution to both international architecture study and the community of Banff. This is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any architect or scholar−particularly from Canada.”

Be sure to visit Yew-Thong Leong’s personal chronicle of the journey, external link working on the Frank Lloyd Wright Banff Pavilion.