Ukrainian Canadian Archives & Museum of Alberta

ARCHITECT HIP Architects with David Murray Architect

LOCATION Edmonton, Alberta

This project tackles the integration of the contemporary Ukrainian Canadian Archives and Museum of Alberta (UCAMA) within the context of an existing residential structure, the early 20th-century Lodge Hotel, and strives to explore and capture the embodied memory of the site’s history within its design.

UCAMA is located in Edmonton’s original city centre. Although it is not known what was on the site initially, the earliest extant structure is found within the configurations that wrap around it today. These configurations or “added” pieces have evolved to create a distinctive pattern, and it is from this chrono-morphology that the parti for UCAMA is developed: the gallery box surrounded by canyons, embraced by existing walls, sheared by floors.

The location and relative form of the first extant building along with the deconstruction of the original building material provides the shape, location, and finishing material for the new gallery box. The gallery box provides part of the story of embodied memory: as salvaged brick walls serve as the primary memory giver, the two main galleries contained within the box are immediately distinguishable from all other elements in the building. Containing the most precious of all artifacts, the simple environment within the gallery box becomes the hope chest of future generations for both Ukrainian Canadians and visitors alike.

The canyons are remembrances of the former voids created by the union of the building’s numerous pieces over time. These extant voids and crevasses provide a thematic template from which the new major canyon is created. The stairs transport the visitor through the museum and provide unique ways to explore the building’s interior and exterior. Visitors to the building can interact with the building in a tactile fashion, touching and feeling the existing remnants of the traditional exterior faade. What was once confined to one storey on the inside expands to three storeys of void and solid by engaging the canyons. A dialectical tension between antiquity and modernity enhances the site’s embodied memory.

The existing walls are seen as the primary vertical organizer of space, and are thus quite prominent. In contrast, the newly constructed walls take a secondary role: they sit atop previous walls, are set back from them, or are transparent, thereby enhancing the old walls and strengthening their role as ordering elements.

The new floors at the front of the building respect the historic floors both in physical location and overall construction. New concrete floors mimic the thickness of the original wood floors, retaining the memory of what it was like to stand in the front window. The gallery floors also shear the canyon horizontally to allow for greater height in the galleries themselves, but these floors do not extend to the historical exterior walls, and are present only in the gallery box itself.

Berke: The strength of this project lies in how it looks from far away, as part of Edmonton’s skyline. Its bold gesture is a welcome addition to the scale and personality of the city. Within the building, the entry sequence seemed a bit tortured. The renovated spaces do not always have the best possible spatial relationship to the new spaces. However, the project has a spirit and architectural enthusiasm that made me smile.

Sweetapple: A complex project that balances between the existing and the new, and one that is quite successful in creating an identifiable image despite the challenges of a renovation.

Teeple: The most admired aspect of the project is the energy achieved through the fundamental design strategy. One circulates along, behind and over the existing building, finally reaching a view outward to the North Saskatchewan River. This strategy both relieves the interior focus of museum viewing and gives the new museum stature and presence in the urban landscape.

Client Ukrainian Canadian Archives & Museum of Alberta

Architect Team Allan Partridge, David Murray, Ian Morgan, David Mazurick, Jacalyn Sernecky

Structural/Mechanical/Electrical Stantec Consulting

Interiors HIP Architects

Contractor Delnor Construction

Area 2,400 m2

Budget $14.5 M

Completion May 2008