Douglas Coupland gets a Vancouver highrise as his canvas

Local developer Reliance Properties has commissioned artist and author Douglas Coupland to paint the outside of rental building The Berkeley on English Bay.

Credit: CMYK

A rendering of Coupland’s planned artwork

Developer Reliance Properties has commissioned the local artist and author to paint the outside of rental building The Berkeley on English Bay

This isn’t just any old paint job.

Since rising to international fame as the voice of Generation X, Douglas Coupland has invigorated his hometown of Vancouver with public artworks ranging from the waterfront Digital Orca to Golden Tree on Southwest Marine Drive. Now the prolific artist and author is transforming the face of a landmark downtown highrise.

Reliance Properties has commissioned Coupland to paint the exterior of The Berkeley, a rental apartment building at the corner of Davie and Denman streets that the developer is upgrading. The plan is to start work in June, assuming the City grants a permit.

“This would be the first time that an entire building serves as my canvas,” Coupland said in a release. “The Berkeley is located on one of Canada’s most significant corners with its stunning waterfront, palm trees and street energy. It is where most travellers think to themselves, Wow, I’m really in Vancouver. Being a significant place, The Berkeley demands something extra.”

A retro-futuristic combination of geometric patterns, Coupland’s planned “jewel box” is inspired by the ornately decorated buildings he’s seen his on world travels, with an emphasis on the colourful tilework found in Spanish coastal cities.

“Vancouver is a young city, and there are many future opportunities to define what it becomes,” he said. “The overall effect of this public artwork will be as an anchor point of where the city meets the ocean, and it will make a person feel like they are at the heart of something. The building will redefine English Bay’s skyline and become a mandatory tourist stop for photos. I want people to daydream about living at The Berkeley.”

No stranger to supporting local visual art, Reliance gave $7 million to Emily Carr University of Art + Design, the biggest donation the school has received. As owner of The Berkeley, the company commissioned the painting even though there was no public art requirement.

Reliance, which starts pre-leasing next January, expects the renovated and repainted building to be a local and international draw. “The Berkeley will attract strong interest because of its beachfront location, and countless social and recreational amenities and green transportation immediately outside,” said president and CEO Jon Stovell. “Our public art will also put The Berkeley on the map.”