2022

MCHAP

Inuit Art Centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Michael Maltzan Architecture, Inc.

Winnipeg, Canada

January 2021

PRIMARY AUTHOR

Michael Maltzan, Tim Williams, Gee-ghid Tse, Sara Jacinto

CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR

Michael Faciejew, Niel Prunier, Raffy Mardirossian, Paul Morel, Andrew Smith-Rasmussen, Casey Benito

CLIENT

Winnipeg Art Gallery

PHOTOGRAPHER

Lindsay Reid

OBJECTIVE

The goal of Qaumajuq was to build on the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s long history of collecting and exhibiting Inuit art and its mission to remain at the forefront of promoting Indigenous and Canadian artists nationwide. Qaumajuq holds in trust close to 14,000 pieces of Inuit art, including carvings, drawings, prints, textiles, and new media. Sharing this work with the world is at the core of the new building. The client wanted an engaging, accessible space to experience art with direct connections to the lands, peoples, and cultures of the North. Qaumajuq acts as a cultural venue for the Inuit in Canada, and a beacon of Inuit agency. The new building is tasked with the amplification of Inuit voices to promote cultural understanding. It is a place for intercultural dialogue through exhibition and learning.

CONTEXT

Qaumajuq, the Inuit Art Centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in Winnipeg, Manitoba houses the Gallery’s celebrated collection of contemporary Inuit art and provides new facilities for an expanded studio art and educational program. The 36,000 square-foot addition to the iconic existing building by Gustavo da Roza faces south toward the Manitoba Legislature building in downtown Winnipeg, and includes new galleries, a lecture theater, research areas, and a visible art storage vault. With a collection of over 14,000 works of Inuit art, the WAG has had a long and continuous commitment to the research, exhibition, and publication of art by Inuit artists. Qaumajuq is home of the largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world and is largest exhibition gallery in Canada devoted to Indigenous art.
As part of the design process, Michael Maltzan joined Winnipeg Art Gallery Director & CEO Dr. Stephen Borys, Curator of Inuit Art Dr. Darlene Coward Wight, Associate Architect George Cibinel, and architectural photographer Iwan Baan on a trip to Nunavut to visit Inuit communities and active artists’ studios. The expedition provided a unique opportunity for the project team to experience the people, culture, and landscape of the North during Qaumajuq’s formative conceptual design phase. The resulting design draws on the ephemeral qualities of northern environments and celebrates historic and contemporary Inuit art and culture.

PERFORMANCE

Qaumajuq’s design centers on a three-story Visible Glass Vault located immediately adjacent to its entrance, welcoming visitors to the museum. The Vault’s sinuous glass walls extend from floor to ceiling, are visible from the outside, and include shelving that follows the curvature of the enclosure. Additional storage is accessible on the lower level by a connecting stairwell. The Vault interior is used by curators and scholars while the public can investigate from the Entrance Hall. An Interactive Theater, café, and Classroom/Research Space are adjacent. The ground level design includes minor modifications to the existing building, like the new Gallery Shop. The expansive, light-filled Main Inuit Gallery (Qilak), on the building’s third level provides 8,000 sf of open, flexible exhibition space. Historically, Inuit art has largely comprised small, stone sculpture made in outdoor studios with the North’s monumental geographic features serving as the backdrop. Inuit art retains an incredible presence in the vastness of the North, despite its small physical scale. The spaces of Qaumajuq are meant to infer the qualities of space, light, scale, and artist’s environment that define the North. Twenty-two figural skylights suffuse the gallery with natural light. The roof level Focus Gallery opens to Qilak below, honoring Indigenous peoples with open space for exhibitions, performances, celebrations, or meditation. Education studios and classrooms are concentrated at WAG’s penthouse level, providing access to the large Rooftop Sculpture Garden. New education spaces include a dedicated lobby and reception, clay studio, kiln room, and two exterior studios for seasonal activities.