Size: 75,000 s.f.
This museum renewal was initiated in response to the deterioration of the gallery’s 1973 concrete building envelope, which was impeding its ability to showcase a significant collection of Canadian art, and to attract international exhibitions. Rather than limit the solution to correcting the leaky exterior, the problem created an opportunity to catalyse a broader vision to reposition the AGH as a major cultural destination in Ontario and to participate in the city’s revitalization strategy.
The design solution began with placing a rectangular metal-clad steel box over the irregularly-shaped 1970s concrete construction, achieving a 20% increase in gallery space and a more regular, coherent exterior form. The opaque, fortress-like façade was transformed by a composition of boldly-scaled horizontal and vertical geometric planes defined by broad expanses of gold paneling, charcoal brick, and steel. The custom-fabricated gold corrugated steel panels consciously reference the city’s history as a steeltown, and differentiate the image of the AGH from its context of brutalist concrete and corporate office buildings.
The original design literally had its back turned to the one of city’s main squares – Commonwealth Plaza, and presented an opaque, impenetrable façade on the city’s main street. The new design opens both the back and front of the gallery by removing portions of the original concrete. A new glazed entrance box provides direct access from the street and a pavilion event space added to the back of the gallery provides access to the plaza, and a newly landscape outdoor sculpture court.
The addition of 20% more space made it possible to clarify the existing circulation so that visitors could loop through the galleries rather than retrace their steps, as they had to do before. A previously inaccessible outdoor courtyard on the roof was enclosed to create a 40 foot high Sculpture Atrium. The rough concrete and heavy wood surfaces of the 1970s interiors were replaced with drywall and maple flooring to create neutral backgrounds against which to foreground collections and exhibitions.
The rehabilitation follows the principles that echo more costly renovations of other contemporary gallery renewals - re-imaging the exterior, creating greater opportunities for civic and urban engagement, and reconfiguring interiors for more dynamic relationships between artifact and space - but for less than a tenth of the cost.
123 King Street West, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Art Gallery of Hamilton
Re-cladding and renovation of an existing 75,000 s.f. art gallery
Bruce Kuwabara (design partner), Christopher Couse (senior associate), John Allen (associate), Matthew Wilson (project architect), Aaron Letki, Andrea Macaroun, Clementine Chang, Thom Seto, Dan Nawrocki, Chris Wegner, Claudio Venier, Bill Colaco
Yolles Partnership Inc. (structural), Smith & Andersen Consulting Engineers (mechanical), Carinci Burt Rogers Engineering(electrical), Halsall Associates Ltd. (building envelope)
PCL Constructors Canada Inc.
- 2005 Hamilton Urban Design Awards, Project Winner
- 2005 National Post Design Exchange Awards, Finalist
- 2002 Winning scheme in a national design competition