DIALOG’S Glenbow Museum Project Begins Three Year Renovation Overhaul

CALGARY, AB, Sept. 16, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Marking an important milestone for a project in the works for several years, Glenbow Museum has officially closed its doors to make way for construction crews. The $120 million museum renovation, designed by the architecture team at DIALOG, is expected to take three years to complete construction, with the museum set to reopen in 2024 at its downtown Calgary site.

"The opportunity to reimagine the design of the Glenbow Museum has been an incredible experience for our team," said Robert Claiborne, Partner and the project’s Lead Designer at DIALOG. "This museum’s mission sits squarely in between the important cultural issues of art and history, and the timing could not be better to help create a facility far more conducive to the important current conversations around cultural inclusion happening in Canada and across the globe."

With a 55-year institutional history behind it, the Glenbow Museum’s Board of Directors selected DIALOG to help rethink how the existing building could serve its member and community constituencies. The resulting design for the new Glenbow focuses on transparency and accessibility: inviting the public into a more open and welcoming institution for an inclusive, diverse and rich experience that is welcoming for people of all abilities, ages, backgrounds and life experiences.

The design process has included several rounds of community input, with a particular focus on continuing and expanding on Glenbow’s history of incorporating the cultural insights of Canada’s indigenous peoples. Another priority is bringing institutional and environmental sustainability into the museum’s program. As the largest museum in the Western part of the country, the Glenbow design effort has taken a national view, seeking input from stakeholders in and outside of the province of Alberta.

"When the Glenbow Museum was originally built in 1975, it was designed to serve as a vault for the museum’s extensive collection of art and historical objects; hence its historically intimidating ‘bunker-like’ presence," said Nicholas Bell, President and CEO of Glenbow. "We are grateful to have DIALOG alongside us as we reimagine how our building can create a heightened visitor experience. This renovation is a catalyst for our ambitious new programming and operational model, and the DIALOG team has been invaluable in helping us shape this holistic new approach to the museum."

Glenbow’s renovation will use the structure of the original building, but completely transform the interior of all eight floors. A new, central vertical gallery will cut through the first five floors, opening the interior spaces to the sky and bringing in natural light. The design prioritizes gathering spaces for people to congregate and connect, including a new restaurant, enhanced retail shop, roof-top event space and a multi-purpose theatre. New double-height gallery spaces have been designed to accommodate larger-scale exhibitions and installations, complemented by a suite of flexible education spaces to facilitate immersive learning experiences for all ages. Glenbow’s collection of more than 250,000 artworks and objects will be newly accessible to the public, with visible collections storage open to all visitors. Importantly, the revitalized building will also include a prominent external front door, which Glenbow has not had for 45 years.

A major design feature, a new skin for the building, will replace the building’s original pseudo-Brutalist cast-in-place concrete panels. This skin will create transparency for the Glenbow Museum in several ways, including adding much more porosity into the facility with strategic views into the museum and out to Calgary’s surrounding downtown cultural district. The new, high-performance skin will be much lighter and appear to float, creating secondary openings to allow for mechanical ventilation to be included but not overtly present.

Significant upgrades to the existing building mechanical systems are also an important aspect of the renovation, as the Museum seeks to reduce its ongoing impact on the environment.

The renovation is slated for completion in the Fall of 2024 and will be executed by the EllisDon construction team. M3 Development Management is serving as the museum’s project manager.

Until construction on the building is complete, Glenbow Museum will continue to offer exhibitions from a temporary satellite space opening in Downtown Calgary in February 2022.

DIALOG is a multi-disciplinary design practice incorporating architects, urban planners, interior designers, structural, mechanical and electrical engineers, and landscape architects. From four studios in Canada and one in the US, DIALOG designs arts and culture, urban vibrancy, health and wellness, transportation, education, residential, retail, commercial and mixed-use solutions. DIALOG has been designing positive change in communities since 1960. To learn more, please visit www.dialogdesign.ca.

Nicole Marshall