Frank Gehry’s Design Unveiled

The efforts of countless individuals have become a reality: the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and Frank Gehry have unveiled a new design for the renovation of the AGO. Gehry’s architectural response stretches across the whole block along Dundas Street: from Beverley to McCaul streets with a monumental glass and titanium facade. Receiving a variety of criticism, the project has already caused much debate pertaining to civic identity, mandates of cultural institutions, and expressions of architectural sophistication and modesty.

The entrance of the new AGO will re-orient its central entrance on axis with the original Walker Court, where a grand spiral staircase and atrium will form Gehry’s big gesture: a sculptural and processional staircase.

The new design will increase the gallery’s viewing space by 40 percent. Art galleries will look down onto Dundas Street and Grange Park. There will be a 450-foot sculpture gallery stretching across the north face. The Dundas faade will incorporate a two-level gift and book shop, restaurant and caf. Jackman Hall, the new members’ lounge and a free contemporary art space for new projects will work their way into Gehry’s grand vision. A new centre for contemporary art will be placed at the rear of the building, with the intention of looking out onto the park.

Technical considerations with respect to art conservation and natural light will be expressed through atrium walkways, open stairways, glass walls to the north and south, and new skylights. In keeping with the requirements of the facility, a multi-purpose space on the third floor of the new south wing will be able to hold social functions of all kinds.

The intention of the AGO’s ‘transformation’ is to strengthen relationships between art,architecture, the general public and the city in general. It is hoped that Gehry’s approach will allow such an inclusive form of architecture to take hold.

Building Facts

Groundbreaking: Spring 2005
Projected Completion: Fall 2007
Budget: $194.8 million
Building Area: 20% increase in overall building size; 190,000 net square feet renovated space; 97,000 square feet newly built space
Gallery Spaces : 40% increase
Canadian galleries: 121% increase
Contemporary galleries: 36% increase
European galleries: 65% increase
Photography galleries: 240% increase
Hosting Centre: 7,500 net sq ft
AGO Restaurant: 3,200 net sq ft
Gallery Shop: 10,100 net square feet on 2 levels
Members’ Lounge: 900 net sq ft
Free Contemporary Art Space: 750 net sq ft
Span of Dundas Street faade: 600 feet (the length of 2 football fields); rises 70 ft. above street level
Grange Park elevation: rises 140 ft.