The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia chooses its winning design | Arts + Culture | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia chooses its winning design

The design by Jordan Bennett and Lorraine Whitman's team will be built over what's now a parking lot on Salter Street.

click to enlarge The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia chooses its winning design
An architectural drawing of what the new AGNS will look like from the boardwalk.

When Joni Mitchell sang that “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone/Paved paradise, put up a parking lot,” she forgot one thing: Paradise could be rebuilt over that dead field of asphalt. 

Today, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia announced it’ll do just that as it unveiled its plans for the new Waterfront Arts District’s gallery at what’s now a parking lot at the end of Salter Street.  

Chosen with public input from a shortlist of three designs—including one helmed by the New York architecture firm behind the Museum of Modern Art's recent renovation and one co-created by the editor of Visual Arts News—the new art gallery will replace the current AGNS’s 1723 Hollis Street location. 

The winning design? None other than the creation by KPMB Architects, Omar Gandhi Architect, Jordan Bennett Studio, Elder Lorraine Whitman, Public Work and Transsolar. 

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia chooses its winning design
The Lower Water Street view of the new AGNS.

“It’s the only one that doesn’t look like a shopping mall,” said one reader when we took a poll on our Instagram asking which design Haligonians wanted to win. With an entryway styled after the peaked hats traditionally worn by Mi’kmaq women and a stunning, circular-shaped outdoor meeting space, we’re inclined to agree. As the Sobey Art Award-winning Jordan Bennett (perhaps the most famous member of the winning team) put it on Instagram: “No other art space exists that began from Mi’kmaw ways of knowing; a space that breaks away from a square box.”

At a November 18 press conference announcing the winning design, there was lots of talk about creating an “iconic building,” and Halifax finally having its own “world-class destination” for visual arts in the heart of the city’s waterfront (which, for what it’s worth, the AGNS’s CEO Nancy Noble swears will survive the coastline changes of the next 50 years as the climate crisis continues).

click to enlarge The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia chooses its winning design
Another Lower Water Street view of the winning design.
The words “diverse” and “inclusive” were said by almost every speaker. When asked by The Coast how much money and space has been earmarked for local artists of colour, Noble didn’t have a hard figure available—but promises that “we are also going to create a new acquisition strategy because we absolutely recognize at the art gallery that our collection does not reflect community, and that acquisition strategy to acquire collections from BIPOC artists will be a priority for us.”

With more space to showcase the gallery’s permanent collection and room to take on new acquisitions, the AGNS now must make sure it lives up to the speech Elder Lorraine Whitman—part of the winning design team—gave at the announcement: “This is just the beginning of a new beginning; a circle, so to speak, with no beginning and no end. Just a world of opportunity.”

About The Author

Morgan Mullin

Morgan is the Arts & Entertainment Editor at The Coast, where she writes about everything from what to see and do around Halifax to profiles of the city’s creative class to larger cultural pieces. She’s been with The Coast since 2016.

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