Patkau Architects' design for the Audain Art Museum in Whistler has been named a winner of one of this year's Governor General’s Medals in Architecture.
It's the only B.C. building amid the dozen named in the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) and the Canada Council for the Arts announcement today. It joins a cross-country list that includes an international airport, a park pavilion, a small hospital and a library in a 170-year-old church.
The biennial awards celebrate outstanding design in recently completed projects by Canadian architects.
In its comments the jury stated: "This is a structure that is, among other things, a total response to site conditions. The architects have taken exceptional care to position the building in deference to the exiting trees and over the seasonal flood plane, keeping the building’s footprint at a minimum. Inside, they have displayed a masterful control of artificial and natural light.
"Their mode of fragmenting the natural daylight at the covered entrance evokes the dappled light of the forest, and glazing along the circulation spaces brings in the actual forest light. The entrance bridge from the roadway and the stairway from the ground each invite visitors into the museum in almost story-like fashion. This building is both complex and serene, a masterpiece on every level."
The Audain, which opened in its forest setting in 2016. , is clad in dark metal, and was purposely designed to fit subtly into its natural environment. “At the initial phase of construction, we removed only one tree on this site,” Vancouver architect John Patkau told us at the time. “The whole plotting of the building was to slide it into the existing forest.” At night, its warm glow is like a lantern in the wilderness. The setting speaks directly to some of the oldest pieces in the collection, many of them Indigenous, such as rare 19th-century First Nations masks, as well as landscape-based works like those of Emily Carr.
The museum is currently hosting a show called Beau Dick: Revolutionary Spirit.
Patkau Architects also received a medal nod for its historic-meets-contemporary Fort York Visitors Centre in Toronto, a joint venture with Kearns Mancini Architects.