Call for Expressions of Interest and Qualifications for new Inuit Art and Learning Centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Earlier this month, the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Board of Governors voted unanimously in favour of proceeding with a public call for expressions of interest and qualifications for the design of the Gallery’s new Inuit Art and Learning Centre (IALC). The Centre will house the WAG’s celebrated collection of contemporary Inuit art, the largest of its kind in the world, and the studio art and learning programs. A selection committee has been assembled to review submissions, establish a short list of architectural teams, and select the winning team for the historic building project.

As part of its architectural planning process over the last year, the WAG retained acclaimed Toronto architect, teacher and author, George Baird as architectural advisor. Baird will continue to advise the Executive Director and Board, guiding the public call, selection process, as well as the announcement and commissioning of the winning team. Baird is the former Dean (2004-2009) of the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design at the University of Toronto, and is founding partner in the Toronto-based architecture and urban design firm Baird Sampson Neuert Architects.

The following individuals have agreed to serve on the Selection Committee:  George Baird, founding partner, Baird Sampson Neuert Architects; Stephen Borys, Executive Director, WAG; Herbert Enns, Director, Experimental Media Research Group, Professor of Architecture, University of Manitoba, and Director, Cisco Innovation Centre for Collaborative Technologies, University of Winnipeg; Naomi Levine, lawyer and President, WAG Board of Governors; Brigitte Shim, Principal, Shim-Sutcliffe Architects, Inc.; Richard Yaffe, Partner, Aikins, MacAulay & Thorvaldson, LLP, and Chair, WAG Foundation; and Mirko Zardini, Executive Director and Chief Curator, Canadian Centre for Architecture.

In underlining the Board decision, Naomi Levine, President of the Board of Governors, notes: “The Board felt strongly that the selection process for the new Inuit Art and Learning Centre should be opened up to a public call to allow for a diversity of ideas and options to come forward. The competition for the design of the existing WAG building attracted submissions from around the globe, resulting in a stunning building – and we would like to see another outstanding design emerge for the IALC through this selection process.” 

Over the last three years, the WAG has invested over $4 million in building improvements and upgrades to the existing Tyndall stone-clad Modernist edifice, at all points endeavouring to preserve the character and integrity of the architecture. Last year, the penthouse and rooftop sculpture garden were restored to their original modernist design. Now attention will turn to the south end of the Gallery’s triangular property bordered by Memorial Boulevard, St. Mary Avenue and Colony Street in downtown Winnipeg – the future site for the WAG’s Inuit Art and Learning Centre. 

Executive Director Stephen Borys, who led the initiative to develop the architect selection process says: “The WAG is housed in one of Canada’s most significant modernist buildings, designed over 45 years ago by architect Gustavo da Roza. Our challenge now is to find the right architectural team to design a structure that will stand next to the existing building, honouring the past while looking ahead – and offering its own statement and identity for the WAG’s Inuit art collection and learning agenda. I expect we will see some extraordinary designs emerging for this international centre.”

The development of the Inuit Art and Learning Centre is part of the WAG’s Centennial Legacy project, which will be supported by the Gallery’s upcoming capital and endowment campaign. A national Inuit art task force chaired by Stephen Borys has been set up to assist with the development of the program and mandate for the IALC. The Centre will be located adjacent to the existing WAG building, and a groundbreaking for construction is anticipated in 2014. More information will be released as the project develops over the next few months leading up to the WAG Centennial this fall.

Architectural teams interested in the project are invited to submit expressions of interest in, and qualifications to undertake the project by the deadline of 3:00pm on Tuesday, September 4, 2012. Submissions should be sent to the following address: Office of the Director, Winnipeg Art Gallery, 300 Memorial Boulevard, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, R3C 1V1.

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The Winnipeg Art Gallery is celebrating its Centennial year as Canada’s oldest civic art gallery with an unparalleled series of exhibitions, programs, and events, promoting the power of art in life and in our community. As Manitoba’s leading art museum, the WAG is home to an international collection of over 26,000 works of art spanning ten centuries, including the world’s preeminent collection of contemporary Inuit art.

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