Michael Audain expands size of art museum planned in Whistler

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      Michael Audain has decided to increase the size of the museum he plans to build in Whistler to house his extensive personal art collection.

      With the proposed expansion, the Audain Art Museum’s size would increase to 55,000 square feet from 39,000. The Resort Municipality of Whistler has yet to approve the revised plan.

      Audain made the announcement with architect John Patkau during a news conference in Vancouver today (May 7).

      The developer and philanthropist said the earlier design did not include enough room for the art collection and back-of-house space.

      “I know a little bit about building condos and that sort of thing, but an art museum’s totally new to me and I didn’t realize you needed so much back-of-house space,” Audain told reporters.

      “This will give us a fairly good area for exhibitions, both permanent and temporary,” he said. “The exhibition area will be about 20,000 square feet and I’m told that that would be the largest in the province after the (existing) Vancouver Art Gallery.”

      Audain could not provide an exact estimated cost for the project, first announced in October, but he said his Audain Foundation is prepared to provide $30 million to cover the design and construction.

      During today’s announcement, Audain and Patkau, the project’s architect, also discussed the museum’s design.

      The L-shaped structure is to be located on a forested site on Blackcomb Way that will be leased from the municipality.

      It will include 14,000 square feet of permanent exhibit space and 6,000 square feet of temporary exhibit space.

      The planned structure has a steeply slanted roof to deal with high snowfall levels and it will be raised above the ground because the site is within a floodplain.

      The idea behind the museum’s design is to create a structure that fits well within the existing natural environment.

      “The vegetation has been retained almost entirely on site so that the value and beauty of the natural site is undiminished and the building has been designed with a very minimal, serene, configuration so that it acts as a very quiet participant within the forest; not as something loud and shouting, but as something that is a partner with the natural vegetation in completing what was a beautifully forested but raw works yard for the municipality,” Patkau said.

      Audain said he hopes the Whistler ski resort community will become a hub for visual and performing arts.

      “What I think we’re trying to do is to contribute to the quality of the experience, the resort experience in Whistler,” he said. “It’s such a marvellous outdoor centre, famous not only throughout North America but throughout the world for its mountain sports. Now we’re trying to add a cultural dimension to the community.”

      Construction of the art museum is expected to start this summer and to be completed by early 2015.