June 03, 2014
Westbank Salon Series: James Cheng Recap
On Sunday June 1, 2014, the Westbank Salon Series came to an end with architect James K.M. Cheng, speaking to a full house of fans and former colleagues.
Introducing Cheng was Ian Gillespie, president of Westbank Projects Corp., who spoke to both the 17,000 people that came through the Gesamtkunstwerk exhibition — Vancouverites that care about city-building — and to his 20-year working relationship with the eminent architect.
Hong Kong-born and raised, Cheng began with his backstory of coming to Vancouver in 1973, when the city was what he described as “provincial” and a place where individuals had to go outside the city for culture. He worked under Arthur Erickson for a number of years — Erickson constantly brought back interesting items from his travels and pushed his team to do better and better work.
After some time, Cheng moved between various firms in the U.S., fulfilling the need to see and do different things. He loves west coast architecture, but also loves the rigor of east coast cubist architecture and struggled, at times, to understand how to reconcile the two. Cheng learned a different way to look at architecture, and admires the way east coast architects had the ability to separate themselves and objectively talk about design — he feels that west coast architects can be too sensitive about their own work.
For the Vancouver House project, it was Cheng that suggested Westbank Projects Corp.’s Ian Gillespie go with fresh young talent, one with a new vision and new set of eyes. Bjarke Ingels was most brilliant architect Cheng had ever met, and knew Ingels understood what Vancouver needs as a city. When this project is complete, the city will finally be tied together — urban realm will be one of the biggest contributions by Ingels to Vancouver. For Cheng, a city becomes richer and richer with everyone contributing.
Also to Cheng, the reason Vancouver is one of the most livable cities should not be because of one singular thing, but because of a total consciousness of its citizens. When one person raises the bar, the next person has to catch it — but it must be the total picture. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but copying someone means you’re exactly where you were and not moving forward. Being creative doesn’t mean doing something different, but doing something better.
With the Westbank Salon Series, its our sincere hope that we have reignited the conversation around creating a better, bolder city in Vancouver — and it is our promise that we continue to do so in years to come.
“When you look at architecture, you have to look deeper to see the spirit of a building.” – James Cheng