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Award-winning architect weighs in on Remai Modern Art Gallery

Chris Morin
October 6th, 2015 | The StarPheonix

find original article here.

It's still under construction, but the Remai Modern Art Gallery of Saskatchewan is set to join the Bessborough as one of the city's most distinct landmarks, says Bruce Kuwabara.

The Toronto-based lead architect will be in Saskatoon to discuss the Remai and his inspiration for the project on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market.

His previous designs include the National Ballet School in Toronto and Manitoba Hydro Place in Winnipeg.

The Remai, valued at $106 million, is not expected to open until 2016, but has already picked up an award of excellence in Canadian Architect magazine.

The following interview has been condensed and edited.

Q: What informed your decisions to include some of the specific design elements of the gallery?

A: One of the reasons the building is cantilevered (the projecting structure of the Remai) is to create a sense of drama that's a gallery and a community space but also a front row viewing of the river. I was always inspired by structures that were very precise and geometric, but also had a high degree of functionality.

We wanted to also capture some of the classic elements of the Bessborough but add a contemporary view to them. So we made sure that there are a lot of elements that direct your view down to the river.

Q: Were there any ideas from the Mendel that you wanted to include with the new design?

A: When you are building something like this you are building it for the long term and not just the next 20 years. You want to think sustainable, and spaces that are flexible. You can use the lobby for gatherings and events, which is something the Mendel previously was used for. The galleries themselves will be able to be reconfigured and sustain changes in the art being produced.

We want to accommodate the original Mendel collection but also the new acquisitions that will operate on a local and an international scale. That's the ambition of the gallery, which is to be an international hot spot for art and that experience.

Q: How much did your previous work inform your ideas for the Remai?

A: We've had experience with other galleries but ... what makes this project unique is the desire for great back-of-house spaces, something that the public rarely sees. Many buildings are attempting to be more accessible for the community, but the Remai is also meant to be a community hub in addition to a gallery.

People want to have face-to-face encounters in their experiences and we hope to fulfil this vision.