Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives opens in Brampton

The new Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives (PAMA) opened this fall, part of a complex of historic buildings, skillfully stitched together by Goldsmith Borgal & Company Ltd. Architects. The creation of this arts centre is the conclusion of an evolutionary process that began with the mid-19th-century judicial buildings in the heart of Brampton, Ontario. By redeveloping the site, the current $13-million project supports the retention of heritage buildings in an established neighbourhood, thereby contributing to both the history and the future of the area.

Working under the principle that “the greenest building is the one that already exists,” GBCA’s philosophy is founded on the need to retain existing buildings and the embodied energy that they contain. In conjunction with the most apparent sustainable feature of reusing four existing buildings, the new complex includes significant green features such as geo-thermal technology, a green roof, and high-performance glazing. A coordinated landscape plan introduces several outdoor public amenity spaces, including those adjacent to the new parking area with permeable paving.

Providing a presence on Main Street was just one part of the overall urban strategy of integrating the PAMA into the larger context of the city of Brampton. What the site had was a prominent elevated location near the historic “Four Corners” (Queen and Main Streets) and across from Gage Park, and a grouping of four architecturally significant buildings, including the former Peel County Courthouse (1866), Registry Office (1890, with additions in 1920 and 1940), County Jail (1867 with additions in 1985), and the subsequent Registry Office/later Hydro Building (1958). What the site lacked was a public face onto Main Street.

While most people would acknowledge the three 19th-century buildings as worthy of heritage status, some may overlook the importance of the twentieth century heritage of the former Hydro Building (1958). GBCA acknowledged the significance of this Mid-Century Modern building, and although the building was not recognized with an historic designation (as the other three buildings are), care was taken to preserve the key character-defining features of the 1950s building, including unique finishes, the overall modern form, and the glazed walls.

Innovative design solutions were required to convert the former Hydro Building into the Art Gallery. The special preservation needs of the gallery, with strict environmental controls, have been achieved by means of a buffer zone between the existing building envelope and the environmentally sealed gallery and storage areas – in essence, a building within a building.

Providing for the new demands on museum and gallery buildings to include public spaces for events and revenue generating projects, a dramatic three-storey atrium has been designed adjacent to the original Peel County Courthouse – the wall of the former courthouse providing a compelling backdrop for the modern space. The rooftop level of the 1958 building was an opportunity in waiting and the space was recaptured and expanded into a catering lounge that connects through to the adjacent rental hall within the former Courthouse.

The official opening of the complex will happen in stages. The Art Gallery opened on September 30, 2012, and the grand re-opening of Phase One, which includes the Art Gallery, Museum and Archives, will happen the weekend of November 24-25, 2012. The full site will be completely operational by February 18, 2013.