Patkau’s Audain Art Museum wins 2018 AIA Award

In Whistler, British Columbia, Patkau Architects’ sculptural Audain Art Museum has added another major award to its impressive list of honours. Already the recipient of the 2017 AIBC Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia Medal in Architecture, as well a Canadian Wood Council Design Award, John and Patricia Patkau’s project was named one of only eight winners at the 2018 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Awards.

Audain Art Musuem, Patkau Architects
Audain Art Museum, Patkau Architects. Photo by James Dow, via AIA.

The sole Canadian winner, the Audain Art Museum joins seven prominent projects from across American and the world, including Ross Barney Architects’ new Chicago Riverwalk,  Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s and Gensler’s The Broad, and Skimore, Owings & Merill’s New United States Courthouse in Los Angeles.

Completed in 2016, the 56,000 square foot museum — which houses the private collection of philanthropist Michael Audain —  is located on a challenging site that combines former industry with a spectacular tree canopy and an average of over 15 feet of snow annually.

Audain Art Musuem, Patkau Architects. Photo by James Dow, via AIA.
Audain Art Museum, Patkau Architects. Photo by James Dow, via AIA.

According to the AIA, “the museum responds to these challenges by projecting a volume of public spaces and galleries into a natural void in the forest. The building’s form and its siting work together with the trees to exaggerate the embrace of the reclaimed meadow. Elevated one full story, a bridge at street level draws visitors in and through the trees, ending at a protected sky-lit porch with views onto the meadow. From there, visitors can enter to explore the collection or descend to the forest floor, where they can access a footpath leading to the town’s other cultural institutions and parks.”

Similarly, the Globe and Mail’s Alex Bozikovic praised the museum’s architecture for its “urbanistic and conceptual” strength. “By reaching out to the village’s main street, it gestures toward a future in which cultural tourism plays an expanded role. Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden has been a strong advocate for that agenda, which is wise: Why not steer skiers and hikers toward the art of the region,” Bozikovic wrote.

The museum was also featured as the cover story of Canadian Architect’s March 2017 issue (below), where Odile Hénault had high praise for the project. “At the Audain, one senses both the confidence of the Patkau’s impressive body of work, but also a new dimension that has come from their recent experiments. Pausing in the wood-lined lobby, one thinks of Emily Carr’s words: “I sat staring, staring, staring—half lost, learning a new language or rather the same language in a new dialect. So still were the big woods where I sat…” One imagines her feeling right at home in the Audain Museum,” Henault wrote.

A full list of 2018 winners is available via the AIA website, linked here.