Douglas Coupland's artwork to cover luxury Vancouver rental highrise with controversial past

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Artist Douglas Coupland has created some innovative and large-scale art in and around Vancouver over the last decade, but he's about to do something he's never done before: Have his artwork featured on an entire Vancouver apartment highrise.

Coupland has created a massive piece of public art which will be painted along the side of Reliance Properties' The Berkeley at the corner of Denman and Davie overlooking English Bay.

The property management company commissioned Coupland to create the artwork for the building, which is currently undergoing extensive – and headline-making – upgrades.

“This would be the first time that an entire building serves as my canvas,” says Coupland in a media release.

Coupland has ambitious plans for the ambitious project: “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," said the artist and writer.

The artist says he was inspired by the location as well as his travels in Spain to create a "jewel box" in his home city. The artwork features colourful geometric patterns running from top to bottom on the sides of the 16-storey mixed-use high rise. The painting will even be on the apartment building's roof.

Coupland calls The Berkeley's West End and beach-side address "one of Canada’s most significant corners," and points to characteristics like "its stunning waterfront, palm trees, and street energy."

"It is where most travellers think to themselves, ‘Wow, I’m really in Vancouver,’" adds Coupland.

Building's previous tenants were 'renovicted' for upgrades

The Berkeley's transformation into a luxury rental building has not been without controversy. In 2018, tenants spoke out about having to endure a "renoviction" in order to accommodate the desired upgrades.

According to a website created by then-residents of Berkeley Tower, the building was completed in 1958 and was the first residential high rise constructed in Vancouver's West End. At the time, many of the tenants had lived in the building for over 20 years, some as long as 40 years.

By June 2020, two tenants remained and faced eviction, according to CTV News Vancouver

Renovations proceeded, and now Reliance says pre-leasing is expected to open up in January 2022. 

"The company expects significant interest from both the local community and abroad," notes Reliance in a media release.

Reliance adds that public art was not a requirement from the City of Vancouver for the upgrades at The Berkeley, but they wanted to make the most of the location. 

Pending public notification and issuance of a permit, Coupland’s artwork is expected to be painted on The Berkeley starting in June.