The work of Toronto firm Hariri Pontarini is cerebral and sophisticated; they have had a big impact on the local architectural scene. But they are not what I would call playful, and they don't scream green. So it is a treat to see what a wonderful renovation they have done at Toronto's Art Gallery of Ontario, with the Weston Family Learning Centre.
It is a rehabilitation and redesign of space that has been through the mill in the last fifty years, in an addition first designed by John C. Parkin, one of Toronto's best midcentury modernists. Then it was reworked by Barton Myers and while the main galleries that Myers designed were redone recently by Frank Gehry, this part of the AGO was renovated by Hariri Pontarini as " a community gallery, a hands-on centre for young children and their parents, three seminar rooms, an education commons, a youth centre for young adults, and an artist-in-residence studio."
Usually the kids' space in a cultural institution gets short shrift, but not here. There is a spectacular meeting room, enclosed in glass, that hangs over the space below. Then there is the space at large, described in V2Com:
The renovation and expansion of the Art Galley of Ontario made use of locally quarried stone, high-performance glazing, as well as advanced lighting controls, which contributed to its sustainability. The renovations have uncovered and celebrated, significant structural elements from the John C. Parkin building expansion; namely the exposed concrete and coffered ceilings. The additional materials—Algonquin Limestone, Oak, Coloured Concrete, Glass and Bronze—have been selected using local sources and are chosen for their warm and enduring qualities. At the concourse level, the entire west façade is glazed and opens to a newly planted, tiered copper beech hedge, creating an important “Green Zone”.
The photos really do not do the space justice, it is more spectacular than it looks.
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