Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

WAG picks L.A. architect for new Inuit centre

Michael Maltzan chosen from 65 contenders

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The Winnipeg Art Gallery has gone south of the border to select the primary architect for what's expected to be the next iconic building for downtown Winnipeg -- the WAG's $35-million Inuit Art and Learning Centre (IALC).

The art gallery announced Thursday award-winning Los Angeles architect Michael Maltzan has been chosen as the prime and design architect for the historic project, which attracted bids from 65 architectural firms from 15 countries.

Because his firm, Michael Maltzan Architecture, doesn't have a licence to practise in Manitoba, it will partner with Winnipeg's Cibinel Architects, Ltd. on the project. Cibinel will act as the associate and technical architect in Winnipeg.

The original 65 contenders were whittled down to a short list of six finalists in September. Each of the finalists submitted an expanded proposal and they were interviewed last month.

WAG executive director Stephen Borys said Maltzan, whose previous arts-and-culture-related projects include The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and The Inner-City Arts campus, also in L.A., was the unanimous choice of the WAG's selection committee.

"Michael's exemplary design work for arts and culture projects positions him well to create something outstanding for Winnipeg and Canada, and his partnership with Winnipeg architect George Cibinel is a solid one," Borys said.

"I am... confident that working with Michael Maltzan, we will see a great concept and design, and ultimately a place that enables our visitors to experience in new ways the powerful role of art in our community, beginning with the WAG's world-renowned Inuit art collection," he added.

Maltzan said in a written statement he's thrilled to have been chosen to design the new centre.

"The entire team and I are excited by the opportunity to create an architectural design that will bring together and celebrate both the WAG's extraordinary collection of Inuit art and the gallery's role as a centre of arts learning and studio practice," he said. "We welcome the chance to expand upon Gustavo da Roza's architectural legacy, and realize a visible, vibrant, and accessible centre that supports WAG's mission to be a true civic and cultural centre of the widest influence and appeal."

The IALC will be built on the site of the WAG's current studio building (the former Mall Medical Building). It will be about 40,000 square feet, on at least three levels.

The centre will showcase the world's largest public collection of Inuit art and serve as an international centre for research and scholarship in the field. It will also house the gallery's studio and education programs.

Although the centre is expected to cost about $35 million to build, the WAG also plans to create a $10-million endowment fund as part of the project. The total price tag is expected to be about $45 million.

It was originally hoped the new centre would open in 2014, but Borys said the WAG now expects to break ground sometime in 2014. The project is expected to take about two years to complete.

The other five teams to make the short list were Will Bruder Architects (Phoenix) with Peter Sampson Architecture Studio (Winnipeg); Diller Scofidio + Renfro (New York); Kengo Kuma &Associates (Japan); Patkau Architects (Vancouver), with LM Architectural Group (Winnipeg); and Preston Scott Cohen Inc. (Boston), with Number Ten Architectural Group (Winnipeg).

"All could have given us something extraordinary," Borys said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 23, 2012 B6

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