The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is about to undergo its seventh expansion project. Today the Toronto art museum announced the selection of Diamond Schmitt, Selldorf Architects, and Two Row Architect to design a new addition to the gallery that will named The Dani Reiss Modern and Contemporary Gallery, after a generous gift from Dani Reiss, the president and CEO of winter clothing brand Canada Goose.
The AGO was founded in 1900 and has undergone a number of extensions since then. The first changes were realized during the first half of the 20th century. Subsequent renovations in 1974 and 1977 were designed by John C. Parkin, and a 1993 effort was led by Barton Myers and KPMB Architects. The most notable expansion, however, was designed by Frank Gehry and completed in 2008; it added a signature sculptural glass addition to the exterior and a spiral wood staircase within the museum’s interiors.
This latest expansion will rise five stories and add 40,000 square feet to the institution’s current size of 480,000 square feet. Over the last decade, the institution’s collection has grown considerably, with the addition of over 20,000 pieces. The expansion will allow the museum to display its growing collection of contemporary and modern artwork in at least 13 new gallery spaces that are conceived to be flexible and will allow for improved circulation across the museum. This new campaign will increase the viable exhibition space by 30 percent.
“The mandate was for flexible and robust space in which to display the museum’s growing collection of modern and contemporary art,” Annabelle Selldorf, principal of Selldorf Architects, told AN. “We found this to be a great opportunity to improve visitor circulation and create a more coherent path across the museum. We did this by designing a space that connects to existing galleries, both north and west of the addition.”
The architectural team of Diamond Schmitt, Selldorf Architects, and Two Row Architect was chosen for the commission from a competitive RFP process. Their selection was based on their experience, project portfolios, methodologies, and understanding of the brief, in addition to a proposed budget and schedule. After the selection, the team began work on the proposed scheme.
The addition will be situated on the site just east of the Gehry-designed building and above the existing loading dock. These existing gallery buildings provided inspiration for the design of this latest addition, and the design pulls from both the form and materiality of the structures.
“The recent architecture surrounding Grange Park is characterized by prismatic forms with intensive materiality,” Donald Schmitt, principal of Diamond Schmitt Architects, told AN. “The Dani Reiss Modern and Contemporary Gallery complements the context with an elemental form that will be clad in a natural material that will reflect the sky, the light and the blue titanium of the Gehry building.”
The new gallery is targeting a zero operational carbon certificate, and this goal will be taken into consideration in all design decisions. The design team told AN that at this stage they are looking to realize the addition with a steel structure clad in a terra-cotta facade.
Considering the museum’s location on Indigenous-owned land, the design team regularly consults with the Indigenous community and leaders, an effort that is led by Indigenous-owned firm Two Row Architect. Through this consultation three key Indigenous values have emerged and will be integrated into the design: Adaptability, Biophilia, and Kinship.
Brian Porter, principal of Two Row Architect, explained to AN how each of these values will be reflected in the completed project, the adaptability will come forth in the gallery spaces that will be conceived as open and flexible venues for hosting installation or community gatherings. Biophilia will make its way through with the direct views from within the gallery out toward nearby Grange Park. And lastly, Kinship will direct the space to be one that is “warm, inviting, relaxed, accessible, and inclusive.”
The project is currently undergoing a municipal and public review process. Construction on the expansion is anticipated to start in 2024 and is estimated to cost approximately $100 million.
“Working through the conditions of the existing building we were able to create a building that allows for spectacular diverse gallery spaces on five separate floors,” Selldorf added. “It was most satisfying that with our colleagues at Diamond Schmitt and Two Row Architects we all shared in the fundamental aspiration around the human experience in relation to orientation, materiality, and connectivity.”