WAG Inuit Art Centre Expansion
In collaboration with Michael Maltzan Architecture, Los Angeles, California.
The new Inuit Art Centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) will house the Gallery’s celebrated collection of contemporary Inuit art and provide new facilities for an expanded studio art and educational programming.
CELEBRATING INUIT ART & CULTURE
The WAG is Canada’s oldest civic art gallery and the sixth largest in Canada. The 40,000 square-foot addition to the iconic existing building by Gustavo da Roza faces south toward the Manitoba Legislature building in downtown Winnipeg, and will include new galleries, classrooms, studios, a lecture theatre, research areas, a visible art storage vault, as well as 6,500 square feet of renovation to the existing building. With a collection of nearly 12,000 works of Inuit art, the WAG has had a long and continuous commitment to the research, exhibition, and publication of art by the Canadian Inuits. The Inuit Art Centre (IAC) will be the largest exhibition gallery in Canada devoted to indigenous art.
REFLECTING THE NORTH
As part of the design process, the design team joined Winnipeg Art Gallery Director Stephen Borys, Curator of Inuit Art Dr. Darlene Coward Wight, and architectural photographer Iwan Baan on a trip to the province of Nunavut to visit Inuit communities and active artists’ studios. The expedition provided a unique opportunity for the project team to experience the people, culture, and landscape of the North during the formative conceptual design phase of the IAC.
The design draws on the ephemeral qualities of northern environments and includes a wide range of art viewing and educational spaces that celebrate historic and contemporary Inuit art and culture. The new building will be a visible public face for Inuit art for Winnipeg, the province of Manitoba, and the whole of Canada.
A DEDICATED CENTRE FOR ARTS & EDUCATION
The design centres on a dynamic visible Inuit Vault located immediately adjacent to the IAC entry on the corner of St. Mary’s Avenue and Memorial Boulevard. The vault’s curved glass walls extend from floor to ceiling and includes shelving that follows the curvature of the enclosure. Additional vault storage, accessible by a stairwell connecting to the visible vault, is located in the basement level below. The vault interior will be accessible to curators and scholars while the public will be able to look into the storage room from the Inuit Vault Lobby that includes surrounding terraced and flexible seating. The ground level design also includes minor modifications to the existing building for a new gallery shop and mobile cafe.
An expansive, light-filled Inuit Gallery on the building’s third level provides 8,500 square feet of open, flexible exhibition space dedicated to the display of Inuit art. The voluminous gallery is intended to reflect the natural environments of the North, the setting in which much of the art is created. The monumental, sculptural walls evoke the immense geographic features that are the background of many Inuit towns and inlets. Figural skylights in the ceiling face all cardinal directions, suffusing the gallery with light from the broad spectrum of the sky creating an ethereal illumination that focuses the viewer on the dense, abstract Inuit Art in the gallery. A Gallery Bridge connecting the Inuit Gallery to the existing WAG galleries creates a seamless connectivity between the exhibition spaces and the existing and new buildings. An Indigenous Gallery on the upper roof level, created to honour the Inuit and other aboriginal people of the North, faces the Legislature building and provides an open space for public performances, private celebrations, or quiet meditation.
Education studios and classrooms are concentrated on the building’s mezzanine level between the lower level vault and upper level gallery. New education spaces include a dedicated education lobby and reception, Inuit Scholars Room, clay studio, kiln room, and interactive lecture theatre.
The design team for IAC is comprised of Michael Maltzan Architecture (Design Architect) and Cibinel Architecture Ltd (Associate Architect).