AGO announces multi-million-dollar expansion project

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

The Art Gallery of Ontario has announced a multi-million-dollar expansion after receiving a $35-million donation from Dani Reiss, chairman and chief executive officer of Canada Goose.

The Dani Reiss Modern and Contemporary Gallery is being designed and led by Toronto-based Diamond Schmitt, New York-based Selldorf Architects and the First Nations owned and operated Two Row Architect.

From the exterior, the expansion will complement the AGO’s existing built environment, respecting the scale of the surrounding neighbourhood. The Dani Reiss Modern and Contemporary Gallery will sit one story above the AGO’s existing loading dock, nestled between the AGO and OCAD University. It will seamlessly connect to the AGO’s existing galleries from four locations.

At least 13 exhibition spaces of varying scale and ceiling height are being designed. These new column-free galleries will be highly functional and very flexible – dynamic enough to display the works of today’s great modern and contemporary artists, and adaptable to the needs of future generations of artists working across all media.

agoGalleries are being designed to adjust to the needs of the program – as large open spaces, or easily divided into a series of more intimate galleries. Designed to encourage intimate encounters with art, the fluidity of these open spaces is enabled by a robust structural capacity, intended to make the installation of complex immersive artworks easier and more accessible.

“In the past decade we’ve welcomed more than 20,000 artworks into the collection and now thanks to both a monumental lead gift from Dani Reiss and the vision of our architect partners, we’re set to display them in a thoughtful, dynamic, and truly beautiful space,” said Stephan Jost, CEO of the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Initiated in 2022, the design of the Dani Reiss Modern and Contemporary Gallery is being informed by ongoing consultation with Indigenous leaders and communities, led by Two Row Architect. These conversations and others are instrumental in leading the team to adopt adaptability, accessibility, relevancy, zero carbon operating and inclusivity as their guiding principles.

agoThe gallery is being designed to operate without burning fossil fuel. The all-electric mechanical plant will use no operational carbon and create no emissions, while seeking CAGBC Zero Carbon Operating Building certification – making it one of a very small number of museum spaces to accomplish this. It will also be built to Passive House standards, for maximum heating and cooling efficiency.

Estimated construction development costs at this early stage is approximately $100-million. EllisDon is the project’s construction manager.

“Our goal for the design is to create meaningful opportunities for connection: with the Museum’s other monumental wings and galleries, with the surrounding environment, and above all, with the larger community. Net zero operations are the foundation of our design approach, ensuring that this space is highly flexible and responsive to the needs of both future generations of artists with boundless vision and our climate,” said Diamond Schmitt principal Donald Schmitt.

The design integrates craft, cultural narratives, and the values of Indigenous peoples that can contribute to a curriculum of learning, sharing, healing, and celebrating. This is achieved through three key indigenous values: Adaptability, Biophilia and Kinship. There are vantage points and an outdoor terrace to access the sky, stars, water, and land to support ceremonies and educational land-based learning.

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