Size: 40,000 ft² / 3,716 m²
Cibinel Architecture in collaboration with Michael Maltzan Architecture, Los Angeles, California
Qaumajuq, the Inuit Art Centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) houses the Gallery’s celebrated collection of contemporary Inuit art and provides new facilities for 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 over 12,000 works of Inuit art, the WAG has had a long and continuous commitment to the research, exhibition, and publication of art by Inuit. Qaumajuq is 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 and CEO Dr. Stephen Borys, Curator of Inuit Art Dr. Darlene Coward Wight, and architectural photographer Iwan Baan on a trip to 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 landscapes of the North during Qaumajuq’s formative conceptual design phase.
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 is 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 glass vault located immediately adjacent to Qaumajuq’s entrance on the corner of St. Mary Avenue and Memorial Boulevard. The vault’s curved glass walls extend from floor to ceiling and include 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 is accessible to curators and scholars while the public can look into the storage room from Ilavut (the entrance hall) 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 café.
The expansive, light-filled Qilak (main Inuit gallery) on the building’s third level provides 8,000 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. Nakishkamohk, the bridge connecting the Inuit Gallery to the existing WAG galleries creates a seamless connectivity between the exhibition spaces and the existing and new buildings. Pimâtisiwin (focus gallery) on the upper roof level, honours the Inuit and other Indigenous Peoples 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 WAG’s penthouse level, providing students access to the large rooftop sculpture garden. New education spaces include a dedicated education lobby and reception, clay studio, kiln room, and two exterior studios for summer and winter activities, such as stone carving and ice sculpting.
The design team for Qaumajuq is composed of Michael Maltzan Architecture (Design Architect) and Cibinel Architecture Ltd (Associate Architect).
More information can be found at: wag.ca/qaumajuq
2022 Prairie Design Awards, Recent Work – Award of Excellence
2022 The Architect’s Newspaper, Best of Design Awards, Cultural
2022 The Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design, International Architecture Awards, Honorable Mention
2022 The Plan Award, Culture – Honorable Mention
2022 Azure Magazine, International AZ Awards, Architecture, People’s Choice Award: Buildings Over 1,0000 SqM
2021 AIA Los Angeles, AIA Healthcare / Institutional / Civic Merit Award
2021 Spirit of Winnipeg Award, Design & Building Category
CBC Gem TV. Absolutely Canadian. Qaumajuq: The Inuit Art Centre
The Beauty of the North on Full Display at Qaumajuq – the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Inuit Art Centre, APTN News
WAG-Qaumajuq 2021, InuitArt Quarterly
Qaumajuq-New Name of Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Inuit Art Centre-An Act of Decolonization, Windspeaker.com
Big Inuit Art Exhibit Set to Welcome the World in Winnipeg, Nuatsiaq News
Winnipeg Art Gallery Opens World’s First Museum Devoted to Inuit Art, Artforum
Photographs by Lindsay Reid