Schematic drawings for the Art Gallery of Saskatchewan unveiled

Saskatoon Mayor Donald Atchison and Dr. Art Knight, Chair of the Mendel Art Gallery and Art Gallery of Saskatchewan Board of Trustees, recently unveiled the proposed concept drawings for the new Art Gallery of Saskatchewan (AGS). The concept drawings for this $84-million project were approved at a special City Council meeting on May 30, 2011. Administration will also report back to City Council regarding the funding strategy for the AGS by the end of June 2011.

The design is a creation of Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects (KPMB) of Toronto in association with Winnipeg-based Smith Carter Architects and Engineers Incorporated. KPMB has extensive experience with gallery design, including the Hamilton Art Gallery, the Toronto International Film Festival building, and the Canadian Museum of Nature, for which it won the 2011 Ontario Association of Architects Design Excellence award.

The concept drawings will also be available for viewing in the Mendel Art Gallery’s lobby. Citizens are invited to an AGS open house on June 22, 2011 from 7:00 to 9:00pm at TCU Place to offer their feedback on the gallery design.

The following is excerpted from an article written by David Hutton of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix on May 26, 2011:

The design of the Art Gallery of Saskatchewan is a prototype for the modern gallery: an art institution that is also a popular social space, says Bruce Kuwabara, principal of Toronto-based Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects and the lead design architect for the gallery, which is scheduled to open in 2015.

Kuwabara stated that “I think we have really tried to seek that balance. It’s a balance between something that is community-oriented and welcoming and achieving a popular success. But it’s also about experiencing high art and real art. It’s not only one thing, it’s many things. This building has to do more than art institutions have done in the past.”

The $84-million, four-storey, 125,000-square-foot building was inspired by the flat, horizontal prairie landscape and the river valley. The L-shaped building’s facade will be constructed predominantly of glass with large bay windows that allow light in and ensure views of the river are maintained throughout. Two large walls of stone will be built at the entranceway on Second Avenue with an engraved “AGS.” Perforated copper will cover the glass bay windows on the upper floors to close off the exhibition rooms.

The terraced building overhangs the ground with cantilever structures allowing views of the river on the second, third, and fourth floors, creating layers that “make the gesture the building is reaching out toward the city and the river,” said Kuwabara. When visitors exit the enclosed galleries, they will immediately have “an awareness of the outside.”

“The design is that you are experiencing the art and you’re experiencing the orientation to nature and the river,” Kuwabara stated. “The river is intricately integrated into the experience of being in this building. This site is really about thinking about the whole city and thinking about how the city connects.”

The interior of the building is an exercise in flexibility as each floor has its own character. The gallery’s lobby is grand with a large staircase leading to the second floor, hardwood-panelled ceilings and a massive fireplace and seating area. Saskatoon artist William Perehudoff’s famous murals, saved before the demolition of the meat-packing plant where they were housed, will be prominently displayed at the entrance to the main-floor Mendel Salon, where the permanent collection will be displayed.

The second floor will overlook the reception area allowing large audiences to take in performance art and concerts. It will also include a lecture theatre and multi-purpose rooms. The third and fourth floors will be used for temporary exhibitions, office space, meeting and conference rooms. The building will also have a green roof, a café and coffee shop, an outdoor terrace on the main floor, a gift shop, activity rooms and temporary galleries.

The Modernist design is meant to fit into, not dominate, its surroundings, including the Remai Arts Centre, which is also on the site. “I just want a building that really enters a relationship with what’s around it, doesn’t overwhelm it, but isn’t afraid of being itself on its site,” Kuwabara said. “I think this design immediately networks this gallery into a global network of culture.”

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