Captured By A Story

The story started with a name, a German word that I did not understand, or was able to pronounce. It all happened when I received an invitation from a friend to attend an “art and architecture exhibition”, along with her partner . They are real estate investors with high interests in the arts and architecture. Though I declined the invitation, I could sense the excitement in her voice over the phone, while they were standing in line waiting for the exhibition to officially open.

A few weeks later, a friend who is very passionate about social issues and causes invited me to an event about “Vancouverism” at “Gwerk Salon”. I found myself searching for excuses not to go. I just did not have the energy to engage in our usual debate over Vancouver’s future.

Another week or two went by. This time, two friends in design industry were in heated discussion over a new development project. One questioned if the building’s unique design could really sustain the earthquake. Then, an image of an odd, futuristic-looking, twisted shape building, started to appear all over my friends’ Facebook posts, selfie photos, Weibo and WeChat posts. There is no way to escape from it.

When a story is told so many times from so many different angles and in so many different ways by so many people, it must be something. And so, I finally brought myself to see Gesamtkunstwerk.


Gesamtkunstwerk (pronounced as Geh-ZAHMPT-kunst-verk) – a German word, means “Life as a total work of art”.  The exhibition started from Arthur Erikson’s sketch of imaging future Vancouver, a serious of towers and podium designed by James, K. M. Cheng, to the future of the new Beach District neighbourhood. Standing by the Granville Bridge, the new development project “Vancouver House” certainly makes Vancouver’s future landscape look very interesting and attractive. With backlit photographs in light boxes and a spinning 18th century chandelier, the once scary and undesirable underside of the Granville Street Bridge was transformed into a ballroom.

In eight weeks, the Gesamtkunstwerk exhibition attracted nearly 20,000 visitors from 12 countries. The Salon series hosted in the exhibition were also well received.  The story that was once hard to pronounce has now ended.

However, the story of the Vancouver House is just about to start. This is how I was captured by a story told to me by different people in different ways, though I still cannot pronounce the word, Gesamtkunstwerk.


Courtesy Phoenix Satellite TV North America, Lisa Wu and Kevin Zu.

Images from Vancouver House.

– Iris

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