Project team: Bruce Kuwabara (design partner), Shirley Blumberg (partner-in-charge), Paulo Rocha (design/project architect), John Allen, Kevin Bridgman, Steven Casey, Bill Colaco, Ramon Janer, Tom Knezic, Shane O’Neill, Thom Seto, Tyler Sharpe, Javier Uribe
Photography: Eduard Hueber, Shai Gil, Tom Arban Photography
Location: Toronto, Canada
The Gardiner Museum is one of the world’s pre-eminent institutions devoted to ceramic art, and the only museum of its kind in Canada. It is also one of the major projects in Toronto’s cultural renaissance. The Gardiner renewal, together with the Royal Ontario Museum across the street and the Royal Conservatory of Music around the corner on Bloor Street West, will form a new cultural precinct for the city.
Framed between the neoclassical Lillian Massey building to the north and the Queen Anne-style Margaret Addison Hall to the south, the renewal creates a bolder, more welcoming urban presence for the Gardiner. Inside, the interior is completely transformed to prioritize the display of the museum’s collections and to create a memorable, inviting visitor experience.
The addition of approximately 14,000 s.f., creates a new contemporary gallery to host international exhibits of large-scale contemporary works, provides much-needed storage for the expanding permanent collection, and incorporates new studio and curatorial facilities to support the Gardiner’s popular community-outreach programs and its research activities. The design also greatly enhances the museum’s revenue-generating potential with a larger, more accessible retail shop, a rentable multi-purpose event space, and a destination restaurant run by Jamie Kennedy.
The design emphasizes a subtle interplay between transparency and lightness, opacity and weight, to resonate the paradoxical qualities of ceramics. The existing galleries were completely transformed to create a series of highly refined volumes, each scaled relative to the content. A consistent language of materials, custom-designed casework, and precise detailing provide a quiet backdrop against which to showcase the collections and special exhibitions.
The renewal enhances the Gardiner’s place in the city. Windows are positioned to provide visual breaks in the public spaces of the museum, and to draw attention to the surrounding context at different scales, from closeup views of the historic facades and pediments of the adjacent Lillian Massey and Margaret Addison buildings to framed sequences of the ROM’s heritage building and new Crystal expansion across the street. On the third floor, the multi-purpose space and terrace create elegant new ‘look out points’ that open on expansive vistas of Queen’s Park, the University of Toronto, and the downtown skyline.
The complete transformation of the Gardiner provides the museum with a series of new platforms upon which the museum’s collections and activities will flourish and which will ensure the long-term relevance of the Gardiner to the cultural life of the city.