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March 9, 2010

Shining star

Photographic credit: Robert Lemermeyer


The Art Gallery of Alberta is not only different. It will make a difference to Edmonton and Alberta construction for years to come. “The gallery will present palettes that in the past may have scared off clients,” says Bob Walker, VP of the building division (Northern Alberta) for Ledcor Construction Ltd., who was also the project´s construction manager. “It has opened the eyes of other clients to the idea that a unique structure can be built here.”

It´s hard to miss the iconic structure on the northeastern corner of Edmonton´s downtown Sir Winston Churchill Square, which opened to the public Jan. 31. The structure is variously described as resembling a giant gift-wrapped present or some huge, fancy hat designed for the Royal Ascot horse races. The immediate attention grabber is the Aurora Borealis, a 190m long sinuous stainless steel ribbon that wanders and rises in the entrance atrium before bursting outdoors through the glazing to a height of 31m, then wraps itself around the building´s irregularly shaped southwestern exterior. From inside or outside, it all creates a cascade of kaleidoscopic views that change with shifting sunlight and seasons. In what may seem like the set for a futuristic sci-fi movie, visitors garner an artistic impression well before entering the gallery´s six climate-controlled galleries.

Walker´s initial link with the project came when the then Edmonton Art Gallery hired Ledcor for constructability evaluations on four entries in an international design competition, won in 2005 by Randall Stout Architects, Inc. of Los Angeles. The firm´s principal, Randall Stout, has made his mark through a series of high-profile commissions that include other forward-looking designs, such as the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Va., and in Chattanooga´s Hunter Museum of American Art. These designs don´t entirely insulate Stout having worked for seven years with Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, designer of Los Angeles´ Walt Disney Concert Hall, Bilbao´s (Spain) Guggenheim Museum, and other acclaimed buildings noted for flowing designs with metal-ribbon cladding.

Alberta Construction Magazine