I haven’t always been sold on the new Art Gallery of Alberta. When Randall Stout’s design was announced as the winner, I remember flinching at the thought of such a jarring steel structure anchoring Edmonton’s arts and culture district. Over time (and recognition of the “big picture”), I’ve begun to really appreciate the structure and what it might mean to the city. When I attended Stout’s presentation on his inspiration for the design back in September, I was even more enlightened – even though he is not from Edmonton, Stout seemed to understand what we needed – from an architectural perspective as well as a community engagement standpoint. Not only did the building make a statement visually, but the incorporation of more public space (including an outdoor terrace), classrooms, and an underground entrance that connects directly to the LRT should encourage better usage and visitation of the gallery as a whole.
The new Art Gallery of Alberta
I was really excited when Mack told me that the AGA would be extending social media folks a sneak peek of the facility. Although the gallery spaces would be off limits (we have tickets to the grand opening this weekend anyway), it would still be a great opportunity to preview the building, construction and all.
Mack behind the camera
Executive Director Gilles Hébert and Media Relations and Communications Coordinator Sarah Hoyles acted as our tour guides, and led our group of thirty or so to all of the public spaces.
Sarah Hoyles and Gilles Hébert
No question – the new AGA is an absolutely stunning facility. Between the sweeping steel aurora borealis, four stories of glass panes, unadorned Douglas fir panels, and alternatively lustrous/matte zinc blocks, the gallery is the building equivalent of a photogenic superstar. In the next few weeks, the public will be treated to an endless image parade of its shiny, pretty interior – and I have to say that I for one won’t get tired of looking at any of them.
Glass, steel, Douglas fir, zinc
I was most excited to hear that the AGA doubled its public/events space, something I think that is sorely lacking in the core. Besides the great hall, I loved the third floor terrace – it’s about time Edmonton has another rooftop patio downtown (the cafe adjacent to the patio will be installed in February).
The view from the terrace
Many are also looking forward to the new downtown dining option of ZINC. Walking into the space, I was immediately reminded of Cactus Club Bentall 5, but I couldn’t fathom how 76 people could be seated inside. Staff were busy being trained so we couldn’t stick around, but I loved the blue glass against the bar and all of the natural light. Menu details have been sparse (you can see the teaser here), but the chef has said he will be sourcing ingredients locally.
With fellow food blogger Chris in front of ZINC
The bar at ZINC
Soon to be a cafe (on the basement floor)
Last but not least – the art. Though we weren’t able to view any of the exhibitions (most of them were still being installed anyway), Sarah and Gilles provided us with what to expect. Besides the Yousuf Karsh portrait exhibition (photos include Queen Elizabeth, Winston Churchill and Audrey Hepburn), I am also looking forward to the multimedia piece called Storm Room. The ten minute installation will treat parties of ten to the experience (showers and all) of an approaching storm. The AGA’s innovative partnership with the National Gallery of Canada will also mean that the AGA now has access to the National Gallery’s collections, and will be able to design their own exhibitions to display in Edmonton. First up: Francisco Goya’s prints.
Thanks to the AGA for organizing this preview! I didn’t think I could anticipate the official opening any more, but after this teaser, I am counting down the days to the weekend.