Malleable and Engaged – Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Harrison McCain Pavilion by KPMB Architects
The Beaverbrook Art Gallery was bequeathed to the people of New Brunswick by Sir Max Aitken, known as Lord Beaverbrook, in 1959 to house a significant collection of masterworks from Canada and around the world. A new addition to the building, the Harrison McCain Pavilion by KPMB Architects, provides a sense of welcoming openness and engagement with the urban landscape, comprising sleek new visitor facilities and new malleable spaces for modern exhibitions.
With a striking fanned façade and a gentle curve enveloping the street, the new 836-square-metre building calls out for passers-by to stop and have a peek inside. If this call is successful, the intrigued will spy snippets of current exhibitions and see into the lofty, vibrant multi-functional lobby, with its crisp cafe seating and feature fireplace – and will likely convert some of this voyeurism into future visits.
The Harrison McCain Pavilion is a manifestation of the gallery’s mission to bring community and art together in the capital city. Located in the heritage district, there was a requirement to maintain a certain level of respect for what has gone before, reflecting the status of the historic Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick building opposite while also injecting a contemporary flavour into the gallery. This is achieved through a sheer lightness of materiality and form, with the building rendered in precast concrete and glass and filled with natural light due to its many glazed openings. Surrounding established trees and buildings can be viewed from inside, where they are framed almost as though they themselves are pieces of art.
To further the sense of reverence to the history of the area, the façade’s fins are designed to bring about the idea of classical colonnades, with a staircase that skirts the exterior acting as a gathering space for the community. The structure’s gentle curves reflect both the street and the Saint John River that runs behind. As this river is prone to rise dramatically with the spring melt, the pavilion is raised well above the flood plain.