Moncton's Avenir Centre stands as memorial to architect who died of ALS

A former colleague and business partner of Raven Spanier says the new Avenir Centre in Moncton is a 'gorgeous' memorial to a 'brilliant architect.'

Former colleague says Raven Spanier left his mark all over the urban landscape of 'Monctonia'

The LED lighting scheme outside Moncton's new Avenir Centre evolved from one of the design features conceived by late architect Raven Spanier. (Submitted)

Moncton's new downtown events centre may be named for a local company that runs hearing-loss clinics, but for some people it will always be a memorial to a man who helped design it and many other distinctive parts of the Greater Moncton urban landscape.

Raven Spanier was lead architect on the Avenir Centre, the newly named downtown arena.

He worked for Stantec and died from the effects of ALS in July 2017.

"It's hard not to drive by and not to think of him," his former colleague and business partner Ian MacLaughlan told CBC's Jonna Brewer on Information Morning Moncton.

MacLaughlan wrote a tribute to Spanier, which is published on the engineering firm's website.

"It's funny how a piece of architecture can embody a person, how it can symbolize a personality like that," MacLaughlan  wrote.

He described Spanier as a "brilliant architect" with "uncompromising passion" and a "go big or go home" attitude.

Ian MacLaughlan wrote a touching tribute for the Moncton architect who played a important role in designing the new Avenir Centre in Moncton. 7:41
Resurgo Place, which houses the Moncton Museum, the Transportation Discovery Centre and a visitor information centre, is another one of Spanier's projects. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Even when Spanier could no longer attend work or speak, MacLaughlan said, he was still Skyping and texting into project meetings to have his say.

"He was still involved right through to the end," he told CBC.

Many of Spanier's ideas are part of the finished structure, MacLaughlan said.

That includes the plaza next to the building, which is hosting free entertainment from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, as part of official opening celebrations.

Spanier hoped people would use the outdoor space, which includes a bandstand, skating rink, park, and gazebo,  even when special events aren't taking place.

Spanier worked on the design of numerous buildings in the city, including Moncton City Hall. (CBC)

"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 honouring him," wrote MacLaughlan.

The building's exterior LED lighting scheme evolved from Spanier's idea for red, green and blue panels, representing the city's logo.

"Raven envisioned a flashy, colorful interpretation of downtown," MacLaughlan wrote.

MacLaughlan said Spanier left his mark elsewhere in the city as well.

Dieppe City Hall. (Submitted by Bill Barkus)

He worked on Resurgo Place, the Codiac Transpo building, the ambulatory care department at the Moncton Hospital, and the Moncton and Dieppe city halls.

Spanier had a vision of Moncton as an architecturally forward-thinking city with a revitalized sense of community, said MacLaughlan

"He called it Monctonia."

Have you heard? Moncton's new downtown events centre has been named after a New Brunswick audiology company. 0:52

MacLaughlan said he's sure Spanier would be thrilled with how the Avenir Centre turned out.

"I mean, it's a gorgeous building," he said.

The Avenir Centre officially opens Saturday, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled for 10 a.m.