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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Art Gallery of Alberta opens to reveal its true inspiration
Swooping steel meshes with glass and zinc reflecting the changing light of the day and seasons of the year – it is in fact nature that fed this unnatural creation, the Art Gallery of Alberta which opens this Sunday (31 Jan). The architect, Randall Stout of Randall Stout Architects, absorbed the majesty of the swirling forms of the Aurora Borealis so visible in Edmonton, Canada, and put pen to paper with dramatic effect. The urban grid layout of the city which sits comfortably aside the meandering Saskatchewan River furthered Stout’s vision as he drew square and curved components together in unity. For any doubters, let it be known – Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, was the true inspiration for Stout’s gallery.

The gallery was founded in 1924 with the aim of promoting the knowledge, enjoyment and cultivation of the fine arts and to preserve historical relics. In its almost 90 year history the gallery has proved so successful that its collection has ballooned to unmanageable proportions. An extension twenty years ago failed to successfully provide the necessary storage with outdated mechanics now deeming the facility redundant. While twelve years ago plans were put forward for a $12million renovation, they were rejected by Edmonton Art Gallery Board in favour of a new building which was thereafter sought to represent Alberta and the collections within the Art Gallery itself.

In line with modern expectations the new gallery brings not just additional gallery space but also a restaurant and a gallery shop. Combined with the renovation of the existing 150 seat theatre and expanded Art Education Centre, additional purpose is brought to the facility. The area of classroom and studio space is doubled in the expansion and rental space for functions is unique with options of the main floor atrium (with 26 m height), an outdoor sculpture court or the ‘floating’ private lounge.

Around 80% of the exhibition space is dedicated to temporary collections and so a neutral canvas is created within most of the interior volume to allow the art to express itself, with the exception of the atrium and stairways which continue the flowing expression from the elegant exterior.

The building stands as an icon of both its surroundings and its contents expressing this symbolism with a combination of reflective materials and an artificial ‘borealis’ white light installation which contrasts with the reflection of the dark night’s sky on the undulating stainless steel facade. A tribute to the natural beauty of Alberta.

Niki May Young
News Editor
architecture NOW

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