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The current Vancouver Art Gallery, pictured on Dec. 13, 2012, is expected to be replaced by a new facility at a nearby location in 2020 if government funding can be secured by spring 2015.Darryl Dyck/The Globe and Mail

The Vancouver Art Gallery is moving ahead with its plans for a new building, launching a Request for Qualifications process to select an architect. The RFQ contains some details of the VAG's vision for a new gallery – an "architecturally significant" 310,000-square-foot (approx.) gallery at the forefront of international museum design that will strive to become one of the most environmentally sustainable museums in Canada.

"The Gallery now stands at the threshold of one of the most exciting moments in our long and distinguished history, having committed more than a decade of research and planning for a new Vancouver Art Gallery," reads the RFQ.

Among the details released on Thursday are the qualifications for the project architect, the members of the gallery's selection committee, and a preliminary project schedule – with construction to begin in March 2017 and the opening of the new gallery in April 2020.

"Our search now begins for a visionary design that will influence the artistic landscape of Vancouver, British Columbia and Canada and attract the attention of the world," said board chair Bruce Munro Wright, chair of the selection committee, in a statement released Thursday.

The gallery is to include a 35,000-square-foot area of "flexible interconnected spaces of varying size and scale" for the permanent collection, allowing the gallery to trace the development of modernism in Canada, and in B.C. in particular, with iconic paintings by artists such as Emily Carr. It will also feature contemporary art and highlight the importance of Northwest Coast First Nations art.

An even more flexible space is sought for the new temporary exhibition galleries – including a black-box gallery and mixed-media performance space.

The RFQ also calls for an auditorium with up to 300 seats, a new resource and learning centre, a retail space, restaurant, offices, 26,000 square feet for collection storage, and a minimum of 25,000 square feet of outdoor space.

Architects meeting the qualifications outlined in the RFQ have until Oct. 4 to submit statements of interest and qualifications.

Those qualifications include: experience providing design leadership on comparable projects; experience with master planning "complex sites with multiple users"; demonstrated ability to be on time and on budget; experience with planning, design, and construction of museums or cultural/exhibition facilities and/or comparable public buildings; experience creating "dynamic and innovative spaces, particularly those enhancing visitor experience and engagement"; and experience and commitment to sustainable design.

Shortlisted architects will be notified in December. Interviews with shortlisted architects are to be conducted on Feb. 28 and March 1, 2014.

The other members of the selection committee include: VAG director Kathleen Bartels; artist Jeff Wall; VAG Foundation chair Michael Audain; past VAG chair David Aisenstat; architecture professors emeritus George Baird (University of Toronto) and Andrew Gruft (University of British Columbia); developers Terry Hui (Concord Pacific) and Peeter Wesik (Wesgroup Properties); VAG board chair emeritus George Killy; Rogers Communications vice-chair Phil Lind; artist Sherry Killam; and the director of the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Mirko Zardini.

In April, city council granted the VAG a 99-year lease for two-thirds of a block of city-owned land known as Larwill Park for the new building, with the condition that the Gallery raise $150-million in additional government funding by April 30, 2015 – or demonstrate that there is a clear commitment from the provincial and federal governments to provide that funding.

VAG officials have offered a rough estimate of $350-million for the project in the past. The RFQ estimates hard construction costs to fall between $235-million and $265-million.

"After years of research and planning for a new Gallery, we are thrilled to be at the stage where we can move forward with our vision to create an innovative and inspiring visual art museum," said Ms. Bartels in a statement.