by Jerry ElengicalMar 08, 2023
Founded in 1959, merging the ideas of cultural architecture and community while fostering their interaction, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, creates an interactive expanse on the banks of the Saint John River through stimulating exhibitions, programming, education, and conservancy. The gallery stands at the brink of cultural and social interactions and aims to create an inclusive space where heritage and contemporary art integrate to bring people together. Over the years, it has become a thriving place and a landmark for promoting art and culture, exploring heritage, and other programs. Having undergone several expansions and changes in its form since 1983, the building has grown and expanded its spatial fabric to include and curate new ideas through public spaces. The previous expansions included new levels to house public amenities, with a separate dedicated wing for displaying artists' work from around the world, and an outdoor sculpture garden that plays with landscape design. The newest and final addition in the extension, the Harrison McCain Pavilion, is an intervention that brings people in contact with the essence of their city—an elegant, 9000-sq ft pavilion that embarks on a journey to promote the gallery’s provincial art collection in an accessible environment for new users.
"Designing the Harrison McCain Pavilion presented an important opportunity to provide a greater sense of inclusivity and accessibility into a Fredericton landmark," mentions KPMB founding partner Shirley Blumberg. “We hope the new addition will become a catalyst for even more meaningful engagement with the community.”
The structure steals the users' attention at the first glance—its fanned facade design creates a sense of engagement between the user and the built form, creating avenues for interaction. This allows people glimpses of the provincial art collection from the street. Apart from the facade, the staircase along the building's exterior acts as Beaverbrook’s front porch, a community space, and a dainty edge between the city and its people. As one moves further, the pavilion's interior offers a multifunctional lobby that houses a café, support spaces, membership, and visitor services, a gift shop, and ticketing facilities. A fireplace at the east end helps to maintain a cosy environment. The interior and exterior programs are a deliberate yet subtle attempt to create interaction and foster community engagement.
“We are very excited to welcome the public to view the newest expansion to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery," says Director and CEO Tom Smart. "The Harrison McCain Pavilion is breathtaking. This comfortable, spacious addition to our gallery is a contemporary take on the existing architecture in the city.”
Complementing the surrounding heritage district of Fredericton, the pavilion also responds to the local urban fabric through its material and form. Located just across the Legislative assembly of New Brunswick, the form and elements in the structure represent a connection to its heritage and also aim to build an inclusive environment. The facade curve represents Queen Street and the Saint John River. The precast concrete and glass are a contemporary revival of the classical sensibilities of the area’s porticoes and porches. Furthermore, as a functional consideration to deal with the elevated water levels and flooding of the Saint John River during spring, the design is raised above the floodplain. This takes environmental factors into consideration and tries to adopt a sustainable approach to tackling the issue.
The overall design aims to create an interactive node between heritage and contemporaneity. The elements used from the exterior to the interior space create engagement and bring the people of New Brunswick closer to their preserved culture, modern environments, and creative play.
This pavilion is an essential addition to the museum’s functional program as it opens doors to increase access to the art gallery’s established collection from across the world: from Canadian and indigenous art to international artworks. The collection houses work by Jack Bush, Salvador Dali, Mary Pratt, and the Group of Seven, among others—preserving and exhibiting generations of artwork. The primary aim of this public addition is to take care of the design, elements and details of interior and exterior spaces. The pavilion is a contemporary add-on to bridge the gap between the rich, cultural heritage and the new art.