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The Thunder Bay Art Gallery is a growing cultural anchor for Northwestern Ontario. By making its new home at Prince Arthur‘s Landing on Lake Superior, it goes beyond exhibition and education to participate in reclaiming an inclusive, living waterfront for the people of Thunder Bay.

Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario
Client: Thunder Bay Art Gallery
Area: 37,500 sq ft
Dates: 2016 –

 

The Thunder Bay Art Gallery is a growing cultural anchor for Northwestern Ontario. By making its new home at Prince Arthur‘s Landing on Lake Superior, it goes beyond exhibition and education to participate in reclaiming an inclusive, living waterfront for the people of Thunder Bay.

Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario
Client: Thunder Bay Art Gallery
Area: 37,500 sq ft
Dates: 2016 –

 

The site is beautiful yet wounded. Once a prominent ship-yard and industrial zone, it enjoys broad water access and sublime views of Nanabijou (The Sleeping Giant) across the bay, but suffers from decades of contamination and estrangement from the daily lives of the public. Ongoing landscape design and revivification of the water’s edge is therefore tightly integrated with the organization and presence of the Gallery. The building is equal parts museum, community center, social hub, and a healing bond between urban life and landscape.

By mandate, the Thunder Bay Art Gallery maintains a particular, though not limited, focus on contemporary artwork of Canadian Aboriginal and Northwestern Ontario artists. Therefore, a consultation workshop with approximately thirty individual stakeholders from local indigenous communities, including elders and artists, preceded schematic design. The insights from this gathering provided guidance that is folded into the siting, organization, and form of the building. Prominent concerns included a strong symbolic orientation to the cardinal axes, curvilinear form, and the integration of a sacred Ojibway re-creation story in which the Earth is reborn after a punishing flood upon the back of a turtle’s shell. The Turtle Narrative, as interpreted by Ryan Gorrie, emphasizes a dual nature. As with land to water, so with body to spirit, and the Turtle’s passage represents time and the creation of culture through the telling of stories.

Oriented roughly north to south, the building collects and presents the water’s edge as a renewed public space. From the west, the bulk of the building is obscured by a large berm and a stand of planted native trees. Through the berm, visitors enter an ovoid cleft that focuses upon a view through the lobby to the lake. The ground floor, which connects to lakefront walks, is programmed with a café, lecture hall, classrooms, and administrative offices, all of which overlook a revitalized wetland and waterfront. Climbing the lobby stair, itself a day-lit place to gather and rest, the entire eastern façade opens onto panoramic views of Lake Superior and the Sleeping Giant. This long, light flooded corridor is wide enough to accommodate large public events and functions. The three main galleries are carefully proportioned to be both flexible and intimate.

The Thunder Bay Art Gallery fosters an experience of connectedness to history, culture, and landscape. Spaces within are fluid and adaptable, responding to and supporting a diverse community. The building form is inflected with sculptural character to resonate with this sense of fluidity, lived experience, and the passage of time.

Architect: Patkau Architects / Brooke McIlroy Architects
Project team: John Patkau, Patricia Patkau, David Shone, Roy Cloutier, Heba Maleki, Roberto Vinante, Katy Young

Consultants
Structural: Blackwell Structural Engineers
Mechanical / Electrical: Smith + Andersen
Lighting: AES Engineering
Commissioning: CFMS Consulting
Civil: Hatch
Landscape: Janet Rosenberg & Studio
Code: Jensen Hughes
Building Envelope: WSP
Acoustics: RWDI
LEED & Energy: RWDI
Geotechnical: EXP
Wayfinding: Entro
Museum Consultant: Lord Cultural Resources

Construction Manager: TBD

Photography: TBD

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