New Art Gallery of Nova Scotia building is inspired by indigenous Mi’kmaq culture

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia’s new serpentine, undulating building resembles a local eel or katew, while its façade references traditional weaving and its entranceway a traditional woman’s peaked hat
Photo courtesy KPMB with Omar Gandhi

The winning design for the new Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, inspired by the indigenous Mi’kmaq culture, is meant to be both a centrepiece of Halifax’s burgeoning waterfront arts district and an earnest symbol of reconciliation, the project leads say. A collaboration between Omar Ghandi and KPMB Architects, the Mi’kmaq artist Jordan Bennett and elder Lorraine Whitman, Public Work landscape design and Transsolar Engineering, the serpentine, undulating building resembles a local eel or katew, while its façade references traditional weaving and its entranceway a traditional woman’s peaked hat. “We wanted to create a space that echoed our natural environment—no sharp edges,” Bennett writes of the new museum. “In accordance to our Elders’ wishes, there are no places for energy to be trapped in corners. We moved away from the idea of the square and the square building.”Or as Bruce Kuwabara of KPMB Architects expresses it, the design is inspired by “a larger gesture of gathering and building and landscape forms that are not bound to the grid of piers and buildings that served the industrial period”. The campus will also feature a public plaza facing the harbour and an open-air circular gathering space called The Oculus. The project is designed to “support local culture and economy by weaving together landscape and architecture to truly make a vital arts district for Halifax and all of her people” says architect Omar Ghandi.

The campus will also feature a public plaza facing the harbour and an open-air circular gathering space called The Oculus
Photo courtesy of KPMB with Omar Gandhi

Replacing its former Victorian home, where a current exhibition features three prominent Canadian First Nations artists, the new C$130m building breaks ground next spring and is due to be completed in 2025. The 142,000 sq. ft museum will have enough space to house the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia considerable collections, including its Maud Lewis House, the tiny cottage where the beloved Marshalltown folk artist lived and worked for decades, which will be installed in the new museum’s fourth floor galleries.The project is funded with $70m from the province, $30m from the federal government and $30m from private fundraising campaign kickstarted by a $10m dollar donation from the Donald R. Sobey Foundation and the Sobey Foundation.


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