Museum Architecture in Alberta

The government of my home province, Alberta (Canada), has coughed up some money and a site to build a new building for the provincial museum (Royal Alberta Museum). The whole process has been less than uncontroversial - there were plans to turn it into a solely natural history museum, with social history relegated to a smaller site; for Albertans like me, who already disagree with our provincial image as being back-country farmers and rig-pigs, this was deeply unsatisfying. But at least we are getting a shiny new building, right? At least the government that cuts education and healthcare and thinks that "non-profit organizations" are mythological, is investing some money in the arts and culture... right?

Well, kind of. You see, there was a very short process for tenders to design and build the new museum. And now, there is an even shorter deadline to vote on the four shortlisted candidates. We have until Wednesday, August 24th, to comment on the designs.

Some names associated with the proposals are familiar, if somewhat jarring. EllisDon, best known around here for ugly office towers for oil-industry corporate headquarters, is partnering with renowned museum designers HaleySharpe (who often partner with our Department). Other I personally have never heard of, which isn't necessarily meaningful.

This is an important building, not just for its contents, but because it also has the potential to enliven (or otherwise) a crucial area of downtown Edmonton. There has been concern about the haste with which these designs have been prepared, and with the nature of the proposals themselves (e.g. too disconnected from local neighbourhoods). If you know anything about the Alberta government and it's penchant for handing out cash and making decisions just before an election, you will understand the context better. You can see what Edmontonians are sayinghere and here.

The Alberta government has created a website to take public comments (comments that it says it will consider). Do take a look, and comment there and here. Remember, this isn't just a regional museum; it's in the provincial capital, and tells the story of its place and people for locals and visitors. If you were to come to Canada to visit me (highly recommended, BTW), which building would you want to visit? Are any of them worthy of the Royal appellation and Provincial status?


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