To the people of the town of Banff, the province of Alberta and the country of Canada –
A few years ago, my organization, the Frank Lloyd Wright Revival Initiative, made an offer to the people of Canada to rebuild the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Banff Pavilion on its original site within the town of Banff in the national park, a site which is now used as a sports and recreation field for the town. The completed building was to then be donated to the town of Banff.
A list of conditions was put forth by the town council, which we were to adhere to in order to receive authorization to build the structure. At that time, we were given no contract, something which would guarantee that the building would be authorized if we were to satisfy all of the conditions put forth, and therefore justify our efforts.
We began in earnest to perform and satisfy these requirements, submitting site plans, doing public presentations, and contacting local service providers and craftsmen. During this time, I spent approximately $40,000 (USD) of my own money, and not a penny of money from our initiative restoration fund. An impasse occurred when we reached the engineering requirements, which would require us to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to satisfy. Further, we felt these requirements were unnecessary and redundant, since there are other buildings less than 100 yards away from the pavilion site for which the same engineering work had already been done. We then asked the council to provide us with some sort of legally binding guarantee that approval would be granted were this work to be done, and to reconsider the need for the engineering requirements. We were denied. The reason given, one that I’ve heard way too often in my experience, was “this is simply the way the government does things”. At this point, our organization ceased moving forward on the Banff project. The thing to remember is, I promised to build a building, not to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars proving it can be built in the first place.
Also, at about the same time, a Frank Lloyd Wright building in Montana was demolished due to the incompetence of the organizations designed to protect it. At this point, we altered the mandate of our own organization to include helping protect endangered Frank Lloyd Wright buildings everywhere, and have since bought a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home ourselves. We are now in the process of acquiring additional Wright designed buildings, all with the intention of restoring them to their original conditions and establishing a preservation easement on each, which will protect them in perpetuity. We are also considering our next rebuilding projects, all of which would be located within the United States.
I would like to think that our involvement in the Banff Pavilion project has not been a complete waste of time. However, a few years ago, we were informed that a local Banff developer had plans of his own to rebuild the pavilion near the town’s train station as part of a “Disneyland” of buildings, something that would be completely disrespectful to the pavilion and to Frank Lloyd Wright, and unacceptable to us. At around the same time, we also sensed that we were getting less cooperation from the town, and even the Whyte Museum would not sell our fundraising Banff Pavilion prints, which seemed to us an extremely illogical business decision. To this day, I still do not understand this lack of cooperation, and hope that it was not part of a coordinated effort to create obstacles for us.
All we can say at this time is that we hope that our work of the last few years has not simply been a ruse to prevent us from following through on the pavilion project, so as to clear the path for the developer’s “Disneyland” plan. We don’t consider the Banff Pavilion project officially dead, and would like to continue it in good faith, and with the spirit in which it began, but we do feel that, for whatever reason, that this is a case of an unreasonably burdensome bureaucracy, and interference from a local government standing in the way of progress.
Finally, whatever the outcome, I hope the town will have the decency not to build whatever building they choose as the recreation center over the original pavilion site, so that when wiser heads prevail in the future, the Banff Pavilion can still be returned to its rightful place.
CEO Frank Lloyd Wright Revival Initiative