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The Polygon Gallery is the largest independent non-profit photography gallery in Canada. It has a mandate to exhibit and disseminate photography and media art, emphasizing contemporary Canadian work within a context of historical and international art. In addition to the exhibition program, The Polygon Gallery organizes national and international tours of exhibitions, produces publications, and offers public events and art education programs.

The 23,000 square foot building is located on a new waterfront plaza at the foot of Lonsdale Avenue, the main north-south street of North Vancouver. Looking south from the site, the skyline of Vancouver provides a panoramic backdrop across the busy industrial harbour of Burrard Inlet. To the east, on the opposite side of the plaza, is a small precinct of industrial buildings dating from the early part of the twentieth century. They provide a somewhat ‘gritty’, if sanitized, reminder of the industrial roots of this part of the city. Looking north, above the rapidly growing high-rise core of North Vancouver, are the towering mountains of the Pacific Coastal Range.

The gallery is organized on two levels. The extroverted plaza level is fully glazed to facilitate public connection and engagement as well as animation of the surrounding public realm. Adjacent to the main public plaza, it includes a lobby and gallery shop as well as some exhibition space which hints at what can be found within the major galleries above. Overlooking the water is a bar/café, and on the street is additional related retail space. The upper level is more inward looking. Here the major galleries provide rugged, flexible, naturally top-lit exhibition space: an armature for artists and art. Central to the second level is the event/education gallery, a multi-functional location for public and private functions, catered banquets, performances, lectures, workshops, meetings and educational outreach. It shares the spectacular panoramic view overlooking Burrard Inlet, the Greater Vancouver harbour and the skyline of downtown Vancouver with an adjacent outdoor terrace. Gallery administration is also located on this level.

The Polygon Gallery is a small building. To establish a distinct identity and hold its own within the waterfront context the form of the building is both simple and bold. The largely closed mass of the upper level is animated by virtue of the saw-tooth roof profile of the north-facing clerestory glazing and a cladding of large-scale ‘crumpled’ stainless shingles which sparkle and shimmer under changing light conditions. This upper volume is cantilevered assertively beyond the fully glazed plaza level below.

Within the context of the immediate site the glass envelope of the plaza level allows connection to the animated life within the building; art and artifacts exhibited within the lobby, a vibrant social scene within the bar/café, and café seating spilling out under the protective overhang of the upper volume.

Location: North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Date: 2013 – 2016
Client: Presentation House Gallery
Area: 22,600 sq ft

Architect: Patkau Architects Inc.
Project Team: John Patkau, Patricia Patkau with Peter Suter
Mike Green, Jackie Ho, Marc Holland, and Haley Zhou

Structural: Fast & Epp Structural Engineers
Mechanical / Electrical: Integral Group
Acoustic: Dan Lyzun and Associates
Code: LMDG
Cost: Turnbull Construction Services Ltd

Images: Patkau Architects