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ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO 9/14/07 2:33 PM Page 34


models to the architectural and

sculptural phase.
“We went through many dif-
ferent designs, and the key
points for us and for the gallery
was to try and add more gallery
space, which was very challeng-
ing since the building – as it ex-
isted then – occupied the entire
space,” says Craig Webb, a de-
sign partner with Gehry Inter-
national. “It starts with a very
analytical process – looking at
how the spaces relate.”
Mahoney says the architec-
tural team “spent an enormous
amount of time studying the
requirements of the museum
and project that they were
undertaking. We needed to
make sure the building was
logically organized by collec-
tion. [Modeling] forces every-
one to think about logic and functionality of the building.”
NEW ADDITIONS The modeling process has also been a boon to construction
HERE’S A BY-THE-NUMBERS LOOK by giving the EllisDon team a clear representation of how the
AT THE AGO TRANSFORMATION: expansion will fit with the rest of the building. “The modeling
in 3-D has been paramount,” Stelpstra explains. “It provides
• 20 percent - Overall size increase of the building
an opportunity to look at [the project] in a new way that you
• 97,000 square feet - Amount of newly built space never could in 2-D drawings.”
• 47 percent - Increase in art viewing space
• $254 million - Estimated project cost Signature Elements
• 190,000 square feet - Amount of renovated space Gehry International explored nearly 20 different building
configurations before it decided on its chosen approach. The
design needed to create a building that was representative of
An extensive fundraising campaign is helping bring the proj- the diverse art collections as well as the Toronto community.
ect to fruition, according Mahoney. In addition to government One of the tasks was to reconfigure the building to cre-
support, numerous donations from individuals, corporations ate a sense of order among the exhibits. The gallery’s col-
and foundations have brought the project to 93 percent of its lection consists of more than 36,000 works from European
$254 million goal. old masters to Canadian and international contemporary
“The real catalyst for the expansion in the first place was the works. AGO also features the world’s largest collection of
donation of artwork from Thomson, and what also comple- work by British sculptor Henry Moore.
mented that gift was the initial funding of $48 million from the Designers had to keep in mind the surrounding neigh-
federal and provincial governments,” Mahoney says. borhood, and create a façade that wouldn’t overpower the
A Toronto native, Gehry grew up just blocks from the gallery residential homes and low-rise businesses near the gallery,
and is noted for having some of his first art experiences at AGO, says Webb, an 18-year veteran with the company who has
making the project even more appealing to the architect. The been involved with the project from the start.
concept of the AGO transformation was first discussed in 2000, The new design’s signature elements include a new
and construction started in June 2005. entrance that is aligned with the center of the AGO; and a
glass, wood front façade spanning more than 600 feet along Dun-
A Model Process das Street and reaching more than 70 feet above street level.
Unlike the traditional 2-D design process that many architects “The other part of the design was to create a singular and
practice, Gehry International Architects’ process starts with phy- strong visual presence for the building so it looked like a
sical modeling in various scales. Architects gain an understand- singular institution,” Webb says. “The idea of [the glass
ing of the building’s functionality and requirements and then façade] was to make a single unifying image that gives that
use block models to get an idea of how each of the gallery’s institution a real strong presence in the city,” without dis-
spaces relate to one another. The process moves from context turbing the overall appearance of the neighborhood. ■


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