Why the Avenir Centre stands as Raven Spanier’s legacy
August 30, 2018
August 30, 2018
A tribute to my friend and business partner, whose vision of “Monctonia” lives on in this community gathering place
People are never really gone. You know how a song, movie, or piece of clothing can remind you of someone? A whiff of cologne or perfume can make a person materialize in your mind. A plate of fettuccine alfredo—the kind your grandmother used to make—can fill you with a sense of comfort.
In my case, I’m able to revisit an old friend by looking at a building.
Whenever I see the new Moncton Events Centre—now known as Avenir Centre—I’m reminded of Raven Spanier, a brilliant architect who became my business partner, and my friend. Raven passed away from the effects of ALS in the summer of 2017, but many of his ideas made it into the building’s design today. The multi-use sports and entertainment center will likely revitalize Moncton’s downtown. Now, that building stands as Raven’s legacy, and a catalyst for the city he called home.
Although he was born in Montreal, Raven arrived in Moncton in 1995 and quickly grew passion for his community. He dedicated his time to Scouts Canada, minor sports teams, Moncton’s Heritage Preservation Review Board, and many other local groups. He was recognized for his efforts with the Order of Moncton in 2015, followed by the inaugural Jon Oliver Community Leadership Award in 2016.
Raven and I started working together in 1995 at Architecture 2000 and took over the ownership in 2000. Stantec acquired Architecture 2000 in 2012. As an architect, Raven was all about design, functionality, and clients. This approach evolved as he focused on eye-pleasing work while still placing a priority on the function of the space for the end users.
Raven, who was locally known for the design of Resurgo Place, worked on both Moncton’s City Hall, and the Codiac Transpo building, felt an unrelenting passion for the idea of an arena and entertainment facility in downtown Moncton. He wanted to do something amazing for the city. He was plugged into it. He knew what residents wanted, and what the city needed.
Could the arena act as a beacon to draw residents to downtown? Could it become a catalyst for downtown redevelopment?
Raven saw the Avenir Centre as an opportunity for Moncton to make its downtown more of a destination. He felt strongly about incorporating mixed-used development—with apartments and retail—near the site. Could the facility act as a beacon to draw residents to downtown? Could it become a catalyst for downtown redevelopment, to help other businesses grow? Raven believed it could.
He hoped to pull people to the plaza in front of the building, to create a community gathering place. Even when there wasn’t an official event happening, Raven wanted residents to spend time there. And now, we have that opportunity. If you gather a bunch of friends for a basketball game in the plaza, or bring your kids to the ice rink in the wintertime, you’ll be honoring him.
Raven had a term for this vision of Moncton, this idea of an architecturally forward-thinking city with a revitalized sense of community. He called it “Monctonia.”
For the Centre, Raven envisioned a flashy, colorful interpretation of downtown. He initially built the color scheme of the building around the three colors of the Moncton logo. His idea of colored, exterior panels evolved to become a lighting scheme, rather than a permanent building feature. The LED lighting provides nearly infinite color options, and it came from Raven’s vision.
When it comes to Raven’s personality, I’ll never forget his ever-present grin, or his uncompromising passion. He always had a “go big or go home” attitude, and sometimes I’d have to give him a dose of reality, because his ideas were too far outside of the box. “We can’t build it,” I’d say.
But he always had that appetite for architecture. He wanted his designs to delight the end users, to make them happy to come to work each day.
For the Centre, Raven pushed hard until the end. Even when he was sick, out of the office, and couldn’t communicate verbally, he was still eager to join the design review calls. He would provide his input by sending text messages about the different items discussed during the design process.
So, as the City and the people of Moncton prepare to celebrate their new community hub, I’d like to pay tribute to Raven and his vision for the city he loved.
It’s funny how a piece of architecture can embody a person, how it can symbolize a personality like that.
While Raven couldn’t see the completed building, he watched footage of the construction process. He knew it was going to become great. And I’m sure he’s thrilled with how it turned out.