Skip to content

Details around pavilion needed for Banff's rec grounds plans

BANFF – A plan to build a replica of a pavilion designed by prominent American architect Frank Lloyd Wright appears a little up in the air.
The Frank Lloyd Wright pavilion, circa 1913.
The Frank Lloyd Wright pavilion in Banff National Park.

BANFF – A plan to build a replica of a pavilion designed by prominent American architect Frank Lloyd Wright appears a little up in the air.

Town of Banff officials say the Frank Lloyd Wright Revival Initiative has progressed its idea to rebuild the destroyed building, but there’s still a lack of clarity regarding the project, which could affect the design plans for the redevelopment of Banff’s recreation grounds.

Robert Earl, Banff’s town manager, said the organization is aware of the municipality’s schedule for the 10-year redevelopment plan of the rec grounds, which includes finishing off an adventure playground and greenhouse during summer 2019.

“At some point, likely in 2019 or maybe 2020, council will need to commit to a final design of the rec grounds,” said Earl. “At that point, if we don’t have clarity from this initiative, we will have to move forward in the absence of the project.”

Wright, who is one of the most distinguished and famous architects of the 20th Century, designed and built more than 500 structures, many of which have become icons of design, including The Guggenheim Museum in New York and Fallingwater in Pennsylvania.

Along with his only Canadian student, Francis Conroy Sullivan, he designed the Banff National Park Pavilion in his rustic Prairie School style in 1911 at the request of the federal government.

Construction began in 1913 and finished the following year, but the building was demolished in the late 1930s after suffering severe flood damage. It was one of only two Wright buildings in Canada. The other is a private cottage in Ontario that still stands.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Revival Initiative is an organization dedicated to the re-building of demolished Wright-designed structures on their original sites – and the $7 million to $8 million Banff Pavilion project is the group’s first.

Michael Miner, an American documentary filmmaker and ardent Wright fan who is heading up the initiative, is committed to the Banff project, saying he’s aware of the Town of Banff’s timelines.

He said the group’s design team has completed all of the work required by the municipality, and they are in the process of writing up a final report.

“It’s a much more complicated and arduous process than I was to understand,” he said.

But Randall McKay, Banff’s director of planning and development, said the group hasn’t addressed all items requested by council, such as a feasibility study to look at environmental issues, long-term operation costs and alternative sites among other requirements.

“They’re sort of jumping the gun towards a development permit; it’s very, very premature,” he said.

“We still have time in our process to possibly accommodate this, but I feel they’re woefully behind in their schedule in addressing some of these items.”

The organization has ideas for the building’s use, which Miner said could include a coffee kiosk and gift shop selling Wright memorabilia.

While the goal is for public use, Miner said the Town could also take advantage of a booming industry and host weddings there.

“We would like to write up airtight rules of what it could not be used for,” he said.

“I don’t want it to be turned into a strip club or Burger King, but beyond that it could certainly be used in the way that’s best for the town as long as it’s not turned into a circus side fair.”

Councillor Corrie DiManno expressed frustration, noting this proposal first came before council in 2016.

“I don’t know how they expect us to move forward in our own plans when they’ve literally dropped a giant building bomb in the middle of our rec grounds,” she said. “It’s just a big unknown as to how this whole future looks.”