How to Build a Great Gallery
By Francisco Alvarez
Dorene & Peter Milligan Executive Director, OCAD U Galleries
OCAD University is building a brand new state-of-the-art flagship professional gallery in a residential building at 199 Richmond Street West. Opening to the public in the fall of 2017, the new 8,000 square-foot Onsite Gallery will be an experimental curatorial platform for art, design and new media, serving the University and the general public, with the goal of fostering social and cultural transformations.
As the new Executive Director of OCAD U’s Galleries, it’s my job to work closely with the architect (Jon Neuert of Baird Sampson Neuert Architects), the construction manager (Steelcore Construction Ltd.) and the University’s Facilities team to ensure that all decisions made contribute to the success of the gallery. We will transform the raw space that we received through a Section 37 agreement with the City of Toronto into a “Category A” exhibition space, meaning that we will meet strict international museum standards for air cleanliness, humidity and temperature levels, and security. Onsite Gallery gratefully acknowledges that the new gallery construction project is funded in part by the Government of Canada's Canada Cultural Spaces Fund at Canadian Heritage, the City of Toronto through a Section 37 agreement and Aspen Ridge Homes.
Below is a floor plan of the new Onsite Gallery. Along the top is Richmond Street West and the compass direction of North. One enters from Richmond Street through a glassed-in vestibule to enter the main exhibition hall. Towards the East, or right side of this floor plan, are a new open storage Collections Room to house our Permanent Collection of art and design, the Media Lounge, and the Gallery offices and meeting room. The main exhibition hall opens towards the South and West, including an area in the centre that can be closed off for special projects. The numbers on the floor plan mark the positions from which the architectural renderings and photographs below are taken. Swipe your mouse across the image to see a “before and after” perspective from each of the six vantage points. I will try to post new sneak-peek photos monthly.
Onsite Gallery Floor Plan
January 5, 2017
While construction began late in 2016, it’s only now that we are beginning to see real changes in the base building, or the concrete shell, on the main floor of the Studio Condominiums.
VIEW 1: Main exhibition hall, looking north-east
Here we see the metal studs that will carry the plywood-reinforced drywall going up against the concrete “shear walls” as they are known in building parlance, to a height of about 10 feet. A custom designed blackened steel reception desk is visible in the mid distance.
VIEW 2: View from the entrance vestibule
This is what you will see when you first enter the gallery. The area where the yellow ladder stands will be the Collections Storage Room, which will have a large beautiful transparent glass case displaying changing exhibits from the Collection. In the architectural rendering, notice the distinctive geometric folding ceiling that will be installed above the steel beams that cross through the space. It was custom designed to protect the gallery from any potential leak from the apartment plumbing above the gallery.
VIEW 3: View from the rear of the exhibition hall, looking north
A view towards the reception area from the south wall of the exhibition hall. Note the many asymmetrical windows that line the Richmond Street face of the gallery.
VIEW 4: View from the south-west corner of the exhibition hall
The architectural rendering shows a possible event or lecture set-up. A second wall will be built along the Richmond side the gallery, duplicating the existing windows, for better temperature and humidity controls.
VIEW 5: View into the Media Lounge
The Media Lounge is situated to the east of the entrance, and will be designed to display digital works of art. This will also be the main social space of the gallery, with seating and free wi-fi.
VIEW 6: View into the Collections Storage Room
This is the view directly south from the Media Lounge. The glass display case will permit viewers to see into the Collections Room at some of the little-seen but significant holdings of OCAD University, with its long 140-year history.
VIEW 7: View of Collection Work Room from within the Collections Storage Room
This is a view that will be seen only by people standing inside the Collections Room, east towards an adjacent collections work area where technicians will be documenting, conserving and handling works from the Permanent Collection.
Architectural renderings provided by Baird Sampson Neuert Architects