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The new Art Gallery of Alberta is an engaging and inviting visual arts center in downtown Edmonton, Alberta. Crafted of patinaed zinc, high performance glazing, and stainless steel, the building has a timeless appearance and extraordinary durability in the northern climate.
The original museum building, a 1960s Brutalist-style concrete structure, was undersized and not taking full advantage of its high-profile location on the public square. After passing through the entry doors of the new Art Gallery of Alberta visitors will find themselves in a four story, lightfilled main lobby defined by the curvilinear architectural forms above and the grand stair that rises vertically through this central space. Moving up through the lobby by way of the grand stairs visitors arrive at the second and third levels dedicated to the display of art. The fourth and uppermost level includes the Member’s Lounge with an expansive view down to the lobby below and out to Sir Winston Churchill Square. Stainless Steel The stainless steel of the borealis form has a bead blasted finish that reflects color and light in a highly diffused manner. Night time lighting The borealis is a two-sided form that plays two very different roles in the long daylight hours of the summer and the early night sky of the winter.
Interior finishes The overall exterior palette of metal, glass and concrete makes are extended into the interior of the building. Located on Sir Winston Churchill Square, in the heart of downtown Edmonton, the Art Gallery of Alberta is the province's premiere art museum. The dynamic structure of zinc, glass and steel, designed by Los Angeles based architect Randall Stout, takes inspiration from Edmonton's unique northern environment and urban grid. A gift to each Canadian citizen during their first year of citizenship, the Cultural Access Pass provides complimentary admission to more than 600 of Canada’s cultural treasures from coast-to-coast-to-coast. Transparent glazing planes and reflective metal surfaces animate the building, exposing the activities within and engaging people and art at multiple levels on both the interior and exterior.
Wall and ceiling become one fluid surface which captures the spatial volume while guiding the public through entry points, wrapping event and gathering spaces, and leading on to the galleries.
Walking forward past the information desk visitors will enter the gallery’s great hall, a double-height public art viewing area that will accommodate rotating art displays. This level also houses a consolidated Gallery administration suite, boardroom and outdoor sculpture terrace.
It has only minor reflectivity, but enough to react in subtle ways to the color of the ambient sky and sunlight. Whereas a smooth or polished stainless steel would shed unwanted visual glare and heat reflections, the finish on the borealis creates visual highlights without glare.


During daylight hours, the conditions described above add visual interest to the face by reflecting the light and colors that vary throughout the day or from season to season.
This design choice allows for the visual continuity of the primary building forms and coloration as visitors move from the outside into the building. The AGA develops and presents a rotating schedule of contemporary and historical exhibitions from Alberta, Canada and around the world, along with public and education programs and events that connect people, art and ideas.
SAAG is excited to be part of this initiative, which creates opportunities for Canada’s newest citizens to discover our rich cultural history, world-renowned artworks, historical figures and stunning parks. Designed by Los Angels-based Randall Stout Architects, the Gallery will open to the public in January 2010.
Selected to reflect Edmonton’s dramatic weather patterns and the extreme contrast of the long days of summer and the short days of winter, these materials create a dynamic quality that allow the building to transform along with its natural surroundings. Galleries were conceived as more conventional spaces in order to maximize flexibility for curators and maintain the high level of environmental control necessary to house traveling exhibitions and the Gallery’s collection. Edmonton’s underground light rail transportation system (LRT) and public pedway are accessible from the main entry lobby. Ticketed galleries on the ground floor include the Special Collections Gallery and the Ernest J. Approximately 80% of the Art Gallery of Alberta’s exhibition space is planned for temporary shows and the neutral walls and floors of these galleries spaces will allow the art itself, not the architecture, to be the focus. Although distinct materials are used on each of the primary architectural elements, these materials were chosen to be complimentary and of modest contrast.
For instance, in the morning the yellow color of sunlight adds a soft greenish hue to the panels; on gray sky days and blue sky days the panels can shift from cool blue gray to warm grey. The larger borealis surfaces reflect colors through gentle transitions that exist at the reciprocating angle of the line of sight. At nighttime, the exterior stainless steel predominately reflects the dark night sky allowing the white interior surfaces of the borealis to become a dynamic, welcoming illumination of architectural elements. Once inside, visitors will realize that these more rugged exterior materials are complimented by refined, sophisticated interior finishes that add warmth, scale and texture to the public spaces and galleries.
Founded in 1924, the Art Gallery of Alberta is the oldest cultural institution in Alberta, and the only museum in the province solely dedicated to the exhibition and preservation of art and visual culture. On the exterior, the galleries are expressed as simple stacked rectangular boxes, establishing a dialogue with the existing building mass as well as a heightened juxtaposition with the undulating surfaces of the public spaces.
The new building totals 84,000 SF, adding 27,000 SF of new public spaces and galleries and includes approximately 24,000 SF of interior exhibition space.


The galleries are unimpeded with structure in order to maximize curatorial flexibility for both large and small exhibitions. These subtle tonal shifts add life to a material that is also aesthetically compatible with the palette of earth tone concrete and Tindellstone throughout downtown Edmonton. Lit from within, the atrium glazing becomes transparent, allowing visitors and bystanders alike to see the events and activities of the museum interior. More static building materials would not allow for this type of ephemeral connection between the building and the site. These two languages of mass and curvilinear form define an inviting rhythm of destination and path in a unique way-finding experience for visitors.
Public amenities, including the cafe and museum store are also located on the ground floor level. Back-of-house art handling spaces and state-of-the-art art elevators will accommodate the regular rotation of art in these galleries. The zinc-clad forms do not shout for attention in comparison to neighboring buildings, but rather adding a subtle and varied richness to the facade.
The multipurpose theatre and education suite are located on the Gallery’s lower level accessible from the main lobby. In addition to flexible galleries, the third level includes an indoor events sculpture concourse that opens onto the outdoor sculpture terrace. In the early morning and when viewed from the east some surfaces reflect back the warm, yellow morning light. Glowing backlight walls are a feature of the grand stair and a warm white fabric is used for acoustic ceilings. During the evening the same effect can be seen from the west with the more orange and reddish tones of sunset softly appearing on the metal. On the fourth floor, green and blue carpet patterns set up a naturally toned horizontal plane against which the boardroom reads as a five sided object of saturated blue walls.




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