clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Lost Frank Lloyd Wright Pavilion May Be Rebuilt in Canadian Resort Town

New, 2 comments

This Prairie-style structure, torn down in the '30s, was one of Wright's only Canadian projects

Would you road trip up to Banff, Canada, to feast your eyes on an exactingly detailed recreation of a long-demolished Frank Lloyd Wright structure? Members of the Frank Lloyd Wright Revival Initiative bet you will.

For decades, the small organization has lobbied the town of Banff to rebuild Wright's elegant Banff Park Pavilion — a prime example of the architect's Prairie Style — which was completed in 1914 and sadly torn down in the 1930s after a flood damaged the building.

Just last week, the Banff City Council voted in favor of allowing the Wright Revival Initiative to investigate the potential cost and location of reconstructing this lost masterwork, bringing the Pavilion one step closer to being raised from the dead.

The original building epitomized Wright's Prairie Style

Wright received the Banff commission for a "Park Shelter" in 1911, and designed it in collaboration with Canadian architect Francis Sullivan. By 1913, the CAD$20,000 building — nestled in a park beside the Bow River — was finished.

It was a single story, roughly 200 feet long and 50 feet wide, containing a large assembly room, separate sitting rooms for ladies and gents, locker rooms, dressing rooms, a kitchen, and three stone fireplaces.

In typical Wright style, the wood-clad building had bold horizontal features including wide overhanging eaves and a long row of clerestory windows. Geometric-patterned stained glass was abundant throughout. In the rear of the building, a raised terrace ran half the length of the structure. At the front, two porte-cochères covered short sets of stairs leading inside.

For 25 years, the pavilion was used by the community as a picnic shelter, dance hall and meeting place — it was even a quartermaster's store during World War I. But by 1939, flooding on the nearby Bow River damaged the building and it was controversially demolished.

It was Wright's only public building in Canada, and one of just two he ever built in the country.

Wright's architecture was meant to be felt, not just seen in photos

"Rebuilding [the Pavilion] could give Canadians the opportunity to experience this architect in a really tangible way, right here in our backyard," said Evie Eshpeter, a Director of Jelle Public Relations and a new member of the Frank Lloyd Wright Revival Initiative.

The campaign to rebuild the pavilion was founded in the 1980s by two Canadian architects, Arthur Allen and Doug Gilmoor, and filmmaker Michael Miner, a documentarian currently working on his fourth film about Frank Lloyd Wright.

The trio's initial proposal wasn't met with much enthusiasm by local politicians back in the '80s. But in the fall of 2015, with Banff in the midst of redesigning the public park in which the Pavilion once stood, Allen, Gilmoor, and Miner decided to take another crack at convincing the City Council to consider their proposal.

And their latest attempt paid off: The Council approved further investigation into the rebuilding plan during last week's meeting, even expressing a willingness to reconfigure the park's new amenities to make room for the recreated structure.

The next steps toward recreating Wright's lost Pavilion

Frank Lloyd Wright Revival Initiative will now take several months to study possible locations in the park and create a better estimate of the cost of rebuilding the Banff Park Pavilion. The city estimated it would take roughly $8 million, but Allen and Gilmoor believe it can be done for less.

Once the study is complete, the proposal will again go before the Banff City Council. If approved, the Wright Revival Initiative will raise private funds to rebuild the structure and hand it over to the city for use as a public space and tourist destination.

"The idea is to create a public space that the community can engage with," Eshpeter told Curbed. "The Pavilion was designed to be a recreational facility, and it can be again. Hopefully, it will attract a lot of Wright enthusiasts who will come to see his work in such a beautiful location."

All Frank Llyod Wright Stories [Curbed]

Frank Lloyd Wright Restorations: Three Projects and Perspectives on Preservation [Curbed]

Frank Lloyd Wright House Is Rebuilt Anew, Piece by Piece [Curbed]