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Remai Art Gallery of Saskatchewan wins Canadian Architect, Award of Excellence
December 15, 2011
Remai Art Gallery of Saskatchewan:

To be built in one of Canada’s fasting-growing urban communities and healthiest economies, the Remai Art Gallery of Saskatchewan is critical to the urban vitality of Saskatoon. It contributes to the realization of a 30-year plan to transform Saskatoon’s south downtown into the River Landing, an urban redevelopment project to create a cultural and community hub between the city and the South Saskatchewan River. The gallery is conceived as the civic heart of River Landing. Since the Mendel Art Gallery opened its doors in 1964, the city has nearly doubled in size, diversified its economy, embraced a global perspective, and become known as the “Gateway to the New North.” The new gallery builds on the Mendel’s legacy to serve the city and its environs, and the design responds to community, context, resources and program. It focuses equally on the gallery spaces and the spaces between the program to offer Saskatoon and its citizens a comfortable, engaging public realm through all seasons, and particularly during the extreme cold winter months. The massing strategy responds to the L-shaped site located between 1st and 2nd Avenues. It faces south to the river, and east to one of a series of roundabouts that connect the city to the riverbank. The form responds to the low, flat topography of Saskatchewan’s prairie landscape and evokes agrarian traditions of building indigenous low-rise rectilinear sheds and barns. Four cantilevered horizontal volumes engage the river edge to the south and 2nd Avenue to the east. The south elevation spans the length of the site and the ground floor is fully glazed to provide continuous daylit public spaces with access to the river. Entrances at each end integrate the gallery into the new pedestrian flows along the riverbank. Each of the four stacked horizontal volumes is designed as flexible loft space and oriented for views to the river. The horizontal stratification maximizes south exposure for views and access to natural sunlight. Double-height areas and atria draw light deep into the floor plate, optimizing the low sun angles for passive solar heat gain. Overhangs and screens block sunlight during warmer seasons. These and other architectural and technical strategies are designed to collectively achieve 50% lower energy consumption compared to international gallery standards. Every public space on every level is organized to face the river, and a central atrium organizes the plan, while supporting a daily range of amenities and special events. The ground floor features a generous connecting stair which initiates a continuous path–an interior, vertically connected community street–through all levels. The exterior will be clad in a copper-coloured metal screen. The use of copper was inspired by the Bessborough Hotel (CNR, 1932), one of Saskatoon’s historic architectural landmarks located further north along the river. The new architecture of the gallery simultaneously looks back and forward. It forges a strong relationship to the legacy of the Mendel and creates a platform to reinforce the role of art for the “advancement of Saskatoon as a creative city dedicated to life-long learning.”

Read the Jury Comments here