Winnipeg, the capital and largest city of the Canadian province of Manitoba, has an outspoken indigenous culture that represents over 12 percent of its population. To reflect that heritage, the city broke ground in the spring of 2018 on the Inuit Art Centre (IAC), a 40,000-square-foot addition to the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) that, when completed, will become the largest exhibition gallery in Canada devoted to indigenous art.

Designed by Los Angeles-based firm Michael Maltzan Architecture, in collaboration with local Associate Architect Cibinel Architects Ltd., the IAC connects to the southern edge of the original museum building designed by Gustavo da Roza in 1971 and will also provide a lecture theatre, research areas, a visible art storage vault, and additional facilities for an expanded studio art and educational program for the local community. An expansive, light-filled gallery on the top floor will house over 13,000 Inuit carvings, textile prints, and other artworks provided by WAG and the Government of Nunavut. The design centers on the Inuit Vault, a double-height storage area visible from the outside with a shelving system that parallels the curvature of the envelope. The interior will be accessible to curators and scholars to offer an even more intimate relationship with the museum’s impressive collection. Stephen Borys, the Director of WAG, hopes that the addition will inspire the local community to engage with the country’s rich cultural heritage. “We’ll be able to connect a classroom in Winnipeg to a classroom in Rankin [Inlet] or Iqaluit,” Borys told CBC.

Interior rendering of a museum space with coffered column in the center.

The double-height Inuit Vault will make the museum’s extensive Inuit artwork collection visible to the public in 360 degrees. (Courtesy Michael Maltzan Architecture)

Prior to designing the addition, Michael Maltzan joined WAG Director Stephen Borys on a trip to the north Canadian province of Nunavut to learn more about Inuit communities and the unique landscaping that serve as their background. According to a press statement, the resultant design “draws on the ephemeral qualities of northern environments that celebrate historic and contemporary Inuit art and culture.” The all-glass ground level appears to effortlessly support the sculptural walls of the upper floors, which were designed to subtly reflect the Nunavut landscape and feature organically-shaped skylights that will suffuse light throughout the columnless gallery space.

The Inuit Art Centre is currently under construction and is expected to be open to the public in the fall.

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