The new Harrison McCain Pavilion dramatically changes the shape of Fredericton’s Beaverbrook Art Gallery on Queen Street.
Scheduled for completion by spring 2022, the contemporary-style addition includes tall concrete pillars and large windows. Beginning at the sidewalk, the new entrance covers 9000 square feet, reaching the building’s former front.
“It acknowledges the street, a portal to the city. What we wanted to do is to pick up the sweep of the street as you’re driving in,” said Beaverbrook Art Gallery director Tom Smart.
The renovations are to make the gallery more open, both symbolically and physically. Apart from the pavilion, multiple ramps will be installed throughout the building.
Conceptual photos show the structure’s front. A wide staircase will lead from the street to the new entrance and a ramp will run alongside it.
“You can sit on the stairs and have your lunch like you would do, say at the Metropolitan Museum. It’s kind of a community gathering place here,” said Smart. “And everybody goes in the same front door.”
The concrete pillars lining the outside are canted, which makes a “dynamic front” according to Smart. He said the design was inspired by local architecture, reflecting downtown’s old porticos and patio culture.
“There’s a conversation that happens within the neighborhood … a contemporary expression of the architectural vocabularies in the city,” he said.
The new ramp replacing the outside stairway entrance will lead to a mural in the gallery entrance. The piece will be done by Mi’kmaw artist Jordan Bennett, depicting the people who’ve lived along the river over its history.
“This is effectively our land acknowledgment … when you come in up here, literally walking through a work of art to get into the galleries,” Smart said.
The windows in-between the pavilion pillars will give a bird’s-eye view into the space, acting like a picture frame containing a mural.
A fireplace and café will stand on one end of the pavilion, while an information and admissions desk will sit on the other. Fine crafts will be for sale in the new space, letting artisans offer their merchandise.
Anyone can enter the pavilion, buying a ticket to enter the galleries if they choose. Smart said the large and open space will be used for conventions and community gatherings as well, as parts can be closed off for privacy.
“People can sit out in front of the fireplace. There’ll be a door that takes you up on to the green space here beside the café where you can sit and have your coffee or coconut cream pie,” he said.
Smart is confident the space will increase traffic into the gallery. Apart from refreshments and gifts, the pavilion area will advertise programs and preview showcases.
Staff are taking advantage of the gallery closure by digitizing the Beaverbrook collection. They’re revamping their website, offering viewers a chance to explore their more than 7000-piece collection online.
“There’s a powerful engine that’s going to allow us to communicate our programs [with viewers] better, make our programs more accessible, exterior and interior.”
So far, reactions from the community are positive.
“There’s kind of a cultural precinct that’s forming up here that we’re glad to be a part of, and to support other cultural institutions,” he said.
Smart said the new design is one of the finest built structures in Atlantic Canada.
“It’s a very elegant building, very imaginative. It’s a work of art in and of itself.”