Rebuilding Frank Lloyd Wright in Banff

One non-profit is looking to rebuild a structure designed by the famous architect with help from the public.

An artist rendering of what the rebuilt Banff Pavilion would look like. Sketch by Bill Ross.

By 1911, Banff National Park had started welcoming people visiting by car, and the federal government decided to commission a visitor pavilion. This led to the hiring of famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who along with his Canadian pupil Francis Conroy Sullivan, designed the Banff National Park Pavilion. The 200-by-50-foot single-flooropened in 1913 is an example of the Prairie School style. It was one of only two Canadian works Lloyd Wright ever designed (the other being the E.H. Pitkin Summer Lodge in Desbarats, Ontario). After years of being battered by the elements, including a flood in 1933, it was eventually torn down in 1939.

For decades, that’s where the story ended. Thanks to Michael Miner, a filmmaker and founder of the Frank Lloyd Wright Revival Initiative, a nonprofit that seeks to rebuild the architect’s destroyed buildings, there’s a chance the pavilion might once again open its doors to the public.

Miner lobbied the Banff town council in 2013 for the opportunity to rebuild the structure in its old space and met with little interest. But, in February of 2016, when plans to redevelop the sports field where the pavilion once stood were tabled they included plans for a recreation building on sight. Miner was contacted to see if the two projects might coincide.

Photo Courtesy of Michael Miner

The exterior of the Banff pavilion before its destruction in 1939.

Now, he and the Revival Initiative are hoping to receive enough donations to proceed with the rebuilding of the pavilion. Though Miner is hoping to get some larger contributions, his hope is that many small, individual donors will show their support. “What I don’t want to be is under a big donors thumb. I like the idea of everyone who donates a little bit feeling like they’re a piece of it,” he says.

Miner’s goal is to get the whole project completed within the five year timeline put forth by Banff for the structure as part of the larger ten year plan to redevelop the sports field.

Though it might seem odd for Miner, an American, to pick a Canadian project as the first for the Revival Initiative dedicated to an American architect, he says there were a lot of factors that made the pavilion appealing.

“On paper, if you think about it, the Banff pavilion is the perfect building to start with, “says Miner. “It was probably the simplest of the structures, the least expensive, the least complicated for a Frank Lloyd Wright building and one that could be built on the original site because the land that it existed on is a sports recreation field and it’s a completely open field.”

Miner’s devotion to Lloyd Wright’s work has been forged through more than a decade of filming and producing a series of films on the architect’s buildings, and though he says he’ll be happy to take a break from films about Lloyd Wright’s buildings, his admiration remains adamant. “I consider him to be one of the five great creative geniuses of all time. And, I don’t mean architectural geniuses. I don’t mean American geniuses. I mean geniuses period.”

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