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Three types of metal combine to create a timeless design

Marcy Marro, Managing Editor, Posted 07/06/2011

An Iconic VisionLocated in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada's arts and government core, Sir Winston Churchill Square, the design of the new Art Gallery of Alberta formally and philosophically extends into the community, welcoming visitors to experience contemporary art firsthand.

"Desiring a new vision, the AGA wanted not only a new building, but to transform the entire institution to stay relevant and responsive to the city's changing arts needs and cultural diversity," says Randall Stout, FAIA, president and principal-in-charge at Los Angeles-based Randall Stout Architects.

Opened in January 2010 and totaling 84,000 square feet, the museum adds 27,000 square feet of new public spaces and galleries, and includes approximately 24,000 square feet of interior exhibition space. The new facility retained and reused 37,000 square feet of the original 55,000-square-foot 1960s Brutalist-style concrete structure that was designed by Edmonton architect Don Bittorf in 1969.

A building of dramatic forms and geometric complexity, the Art Gallery of Alberta has two orthogonal volumes and a curvilinear "borealis," that is representative of the northern lights and wraps itself around and through the building. The design team looked for ways to unify the overall composition through a careful selection of exterior surface materials-zinc, stainless steel and aluminum-that were chosen to be complimentary and of modest contrast.

With a soft and aged quality in its appearance, the patinaed zinc has only minor reflectivity, but enough to react in subtle ways to the color of the ambient sky and sunlight. The subtle tonal shifts-from soft greenish hues to cool blue gray to warm gray-add life to a material that is aesthetically compatible with the palette of earth tone concrete and Tindellstone throughout downtown Edmonton.

design awardsThe borealis' stainless steel has a bead-blasted finish that subtly deflects and diffuses color and light. Creating soft and delicate reflections, the larger borealis surfaces reveals colors that exist at the reciprocating angle of the line of sight.

A two-sided form, the borealis plays two very different roles throughout the summer and winter months. During the daylight hours, the borealis reflects the light and colors that vary throughout the day or from season to season. At night, the exterior stainless steel predominately reflects the dark night sky while allowing the white painted aluminum interior surfaces of the borealis to become a dynamic, welcoming architectural elements. Lit from within, the atrium glazing becomes transparent, allowing visitors and bystanders to see the events and activities of the museum throughout the year. Kawneer Co. Inc., Norcross, Ga., supplied the curtainwall system, which features energy-efficient fritted glass from Viracon, Owatonna, Minn.

The overall exterior palette of metal, glass and concrete are extended into the museum's interior, allowing for the visual continuity of the primary building forms and coloration as visitors move from outside into the building. "Once inside, visitors will realize that these more rugged exterior materials are complimented by refined, sophisticated interior finishes that add warmth, scale and texture to the public spaces and galleries," Stout says.

Kansas City, Mo.-based A. Zahner Co. engineered and fabricated all of the façade and roof panels, as well as the curvilinear borealis sections. Gary Davis, director of marketing at Zahner, advised that the company was brought into the project very early by Randall Stout to bring his vision to completion. "Zahner worked with the RSA team throughout the project and followed through with Flynn Canada as they completed the installation of the Zahner products. Zahner ZEPPS panels, as well as ZIFF fins, formed the curvilinear and very robust geometries. The ZAHNER systems simplified the structural steel requirements and provided multicurved subframing to mount the Zahner fabricated panels onto."

Three types of metalThe scope included approximately 22,000 square feet of 0.050-inch Polar White aluminum flat sheets from Firestone Building Products, Indianapolis; approximately 25,000 square feet of 3/16-inch structural aluminum alloy sheets from Irving, Texas-based Samuel, Son & Co. Ltd., which was made into multi-curved ZEPPS panels that form the borealis; approximately 50,000 square feet of InvariMatte stainlesssteel sheets from Allison Park, Pa.-based Contrarian Metal Resources; and approximately 60,000 square feet of zinc sheets from Umicore Building Products USA Inc., Raleigh, N.C. Zahner custom patinated the zinc sheets into trapezoidal recessed flat lock panels to develop an architectural ambiance and aesthetic to meet the demanding composition requirements of the architects. All metals were supplied in sheet format, and Zahner water-jet cut the metal shapes and formed the panels based on 3-D digital models. Edmonton-based Flynn Canada installed all of the panels.

"The Alberta Art Gallery epitomizes the flexibility in which metal can be transformed and assembled to create visually stunning architecture," says judge Andrew Cottrell. "The juxtaposition of the curving metal forms against the box-like zinc forms creates a work of art in itself. I also find the curving metal form to have purpose in the fact that it acts as a non-traditional form of sunshading from the glazing system."

Using advanced design, fabrication and installation technologies, the AGA was designed and built like very few buildings before it. "Enabled by computer tools from start to finish, the AGA is clearly a building that is 'of its time' and expresses a new craft that synthesizes human skill and ingenuity as well as digital science," says Stout.

Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Completed: January 2010
Total square feet: 84,000 square feet
Building ow ner: Art Gallery of Alberta
Architect: Randall Stout Architects Inc., Los Angeles, www.stoutarc.com
General contractor: Ledcor Construction Ltd., Edmonton
Design assist /metal pa nel fabricator: A. Zahner Co., Kansas City, Mo.
Installer: Flynn Canada, Edmonton
Aluminum:Firestone Building Products, Indianapolis, www.firestonebpco.com
Curtainwall system: Kawneer Co. Inc., Norcross, Ga., www.kawneer.com
Fritted glass: Viracon, Owatonna, Minn., www.viracon.com
InvariMatte finish: Contrarian Metal Resources, Allison Park, Pa., www.metalresources.net
Structural aluminum alloy: Samuel, Son & Co. Ltd., Irving, Texas, www.samuel.com
Structural steel: Empire Iron Works Ltd., Edmonton, www.empireiron.com
Zinc wall panels: Umicore Building Products USA Inc., Raleigh, N.C., www.vmzinc-us.com

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