The Art Gallery of Grande Prairie is a new three-storey gallery fit within the two-storey masonry shell of the former Grande Prairie High School – a building within a building. The project expands the existing art gallery built within the Prairie Design Award-winning Montrose Cultural Centre, designed and completed by Teeple Architects in 2009. With the new expansion, the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie becomes the second largest art gallery in the province and is the key cultural focal point within the city’s growing civic precinct.
The gallery is conceived of as a sequence of architectural experiences, creating a rich variety of curatorial opportunities and new and dramatic ways of exhibiting and viewing art. Seven galleries, varying from very small and intimate to large and expansive, follow each other in a sequence through which visitors are naturally drawn. Visual interconnectivity of spaces creates a richness of experience, allows glimpses of future moments in the sequence and allows objects in the collection to be perceived from multiple points of view.
The new gallery connects to the existing with a glass bridge suspended within a double height gallery, spanning what was previously the gap between the old school building and the Montrose Cultural Centre. The new three-storey structure is held twelve feet back from the existing masonry walls, creating a tall, naturally lit gallery in the interstitial space between the new and existing structures. Diffuse natural light is brought into the galleries through angled light monitors that reflect clerestory light into the galleries while concealing the source of the light. This carefully orchestrated daylighting strategy is combined with sensitive environmental design to satisfy the strict requirements of Canadian Cultural Property standards.
The gallery achieves a new level of openness by bringing the traditional back-of-house functions of education, research, archival storage, and even the workshop into the visitor experience to maximize educational opportunities. Flexibility and functionality are top priorities of the design. The role of the architecture is to enhance the experience of the art and to create opportunities for the artists and curators.