Randall Stout on the new Art Gallery of Alberta

On Saturday afternoon, Randall Stout gave a talk at the Winspear Centre on the new Art Gallery of Alberta. As the lead architect on the renovation of the AGA, he could talk about the project like no one else. He started with some of his influences and favorite examples of architecture, and then moved on to the philosophy behind the design for the new AGA. He touched on the technology used throughout the design process, and the materials used for the building’s construction. He finished with some never-before-seen renderings and photographs of the new AGA.

As Sharon noted, one couldn’t help but come away from the talk feeling excited about the new Art Gallery. I was already looking forward to the new building for it’s unique and controversial design (both positive things in a city mostly full of plain buildings) and hearing Stout’s thoughts only furthered my appreciation for the design.

Randall Stout Architects, Inc. was named the winner of the Edmonton Art Gallery’s New Vision architectural competition on October 13th, 2005. Here’s what Stout had to say at the time:

“It is an honour to be chosen from among such distinguished colleagues,” said Randall Stout once he had been given the news. “I look forward with great excitement to crafting architecture that serves the Gallery’s New Vision of programming for the people of Edmonton and all of Alberta.”

The distinguished colleagues he mentioned included Alsop & Partners (London, UK) and Quadrangle (Toronto), Arthur Erickson/Nick Milkovich (Vancouver), Dub Architects (Edmonton), and Zaha Hadid (London, UK).

Though Randall Stout has been on the job for about four years, the project actually started nearly twelve years ago. That’s when the wheels were set in motion for the renovation of what was known at the time as the Edmonton Art Gallery. I think once we see the completed building we’ll look back and say it was worth the wait.

The most distinctive feature, the sweeping stainless steel wave, is known as “Borealis”. It is meant to reflect our city’s unique geography – the river valley cutting through box-filled urban spaces. While it will appear as one piece as you walk into the building, it is actually separate to ensure that cold outside temperatures stay outside.

Stout talked a little about designing for such a northern climate. He mentioned that the building was designed with winter in mind, and showed a rendering of the building on a very snowy day. He didn’t give specifics however, and said to wait for some nice weather-related surprises when the building opens. He also shared his admiration for local construction workers who braved the cold weather to keep the project on track.

Though the new AGA will indeed be linked to the pedway system and to Churchill LRT station when finished, it will not include a redesigned LRT entrance. Stout said that he went above and beyond the requirements of the competition by including the feature in his initial designs, but scrapped it due to lack of funding. He’s hopeful that the City might resurrect the feature in the future (and I am too).

Art Gallery of Alberta

Other interesting features of the new building include “the grand staircase”, the third floor terrace, a new restaurant/cafe, and a color-changing exterior. You can learn more about the building features here.

The new $88 million Art Gallery of Alberta will open to the public on January 31, 2010, roughly 1500 days after Randall Stout won the competition. To tide you over until then, the Art Gallery of Alberta is hosting an exhibit called Building a Vision, which features “the progression of the building from initial conceptual sketches and diagrams to pictures, models, and photographs captured throughout construction.” Don’t miss it!