Art gallery design wins architecture award but not contract

A design proposal for the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria has won international recognition at the World Architecture Festival.

The design, however, will never be built.

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Winnipeg-based 5468796 Architecture and Number TEN architectural group of Victoria were among three teams shortlisted for the AGGV’s $14-million expansion contract.

In spite of losing the contract, the Winnipeg team’s vision for the gallery was named Best Future Project at the festival last week in Singapore. It was the only North American project to win its category at the awards ceremony, which is the largest celebration of architecture around the world.

About 400 projects ranging from schools to cinemas were in the running across 31 categories.

“It definitely felt great when you think about the context in which we won,” said project leader Sasa Radulovic of 5468796.

The team was competing against some of the biggest architectural firms in the world, he said, including Rogers Stirk Habour+Partners, which was responsible for the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Lloyd’s building in London (the firm was previously known as Richard Rogers Partnership).

Radulovic described the design as one that camouflaged the gallery in the rich tree canopy of Garry oaks and sequoias, while bringing a “downtown” presence to the residential location.

“Our submission offers a brand new structure, reimagining the gallery as a village of small pavilions engulfed by the inspired landscape cascading through the site,” the project description reads. “A choreography of gardens and new public spaces weaves the property back into the fabric of the surrounding neighbourhood.”

Radulovic received limited feedback on the proposal from the AGGV, but said rejection is part of the business.

“As a designer, you have to be prepared for letdowns, because there are more of those than wins. So we are comfortable with that,” he said.

“On the other hand, being recognized here — at least to us — it proved that we have something to say.”

Art gallery director Jon Tupper described the proposal from 5468796 and Number TEN as “outrageous” and “phenomenal.” He said he was happy to see it recognized with the award.

“It was a fantastic proposal,” he said. “I just don’t think I could say anything negative about it.”

The art gallery ultimately awarded the contract in March to Vancouver’s Lang Wilson Practice in Architecture Culture Inc. and Victoria’s Moore Architecture Inc. Tupper said their proposal stood out from 18 original submissions for the way it involved extensive community consultation.

“They did a lot more on-the-ground interviewing of staff and talking about the functionality of the museum … how it operates from a museum standpoint and how it operates in the community,” he said.

“I think that’s what flipped them over the top.”

The third shortlisted proposal was submitted jointly by Vancouver’s Public: Architecture + Communication and Victoria’s de Hoog & Kierulf architects.

No artistic renditions are available for the expansion yet, but the schematic design is about 75 per cent complete, Tupper said.

asmart@timescolonist.com

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