Qaumajuq, the Inuit Art Centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) in Winnipeg, Manitoba houses the Gallery’s celebrated collection of contemporary Inuit art and provides new facilities for an expanded studio art and educational program. The 36,000 square-foot addition to the iconic existing building by Gustavo da Roza faces south toward the Manitoba Legislature building in downtown Winnipeg, and includes new galleries, a lecture theatre, research areas, and a visible art storage vault. With a collection of over 12,000 works of Inuit art, the WAG has had a long and continuous commitment to the research, exhibition, and publication of art by Inuit. Qaumajuq is the largest exhibition gallery in Canada devoted to Indigenous art. As part of the design process, Michael Maltzan joined Winnipeg Art Gallery Director & CEO Dr. Stephen Borys, Curator of Inuit Art Dr. Darlene Coward Wight, Associate Architect George Cibinel, and architectural photographer Iwan Baan on a trip to Nunavut to visit Inuit communities and active artists’ studios. The expedition provided a unique opportunity for the project team to experience the people, culture, and landscape of the North during Qaumajuq’s formative conceptual design phase. The resulting design draws on the ephemeral qualities of northern environments that celebrate historic and contemporary Inuit art and culture. The design centers on a three-story Visible Glass Vault located immediately adjacent to Qaumajuq’s entrance. The Vault’s curved glass walls extend floor to ceiling and include shelving that follows the curvature of the enclosure. Additional vault storage, accessible by a connecting stairwell, is located in the lower level. The Vault interior is accessible to curators and scholars while the public is able to look inside from Ilavut (Entrance Hall). Ilipvik (Interactive Theater), the Katita café, and Pituaq (Classroom/Research Space) are adjacent to Ilavut, and provide educational and research spaces in close proximity to the Visible Vault. The ground level design also includes minor modifications to the existing building, like the new Gallery Shop. The expansive, light-filled Qilak (Main Inuit Gallery) on the building’s third level provides 8,000 square feet of open, flexible exhibition space dedicated to the display of Inuit art. The voluminous gallery is intended to reflect the natural environments of the North, the setting in which much of the art is created. The monumental, sculptural walls evoke the immense geographic features that are the background of many Inuit towns and inlets. Figural skylights in the ceiling suffuse the gallery with light from the broad spectrum of the sky creating an ethereal illumination that focuses the viewer on the Inuit art in the gallery. Pimâtisiwin (Focus Gallery) on the upper roof level opens to Qilak below, honoring the Inuit and other Indigenous peoples of the North with open space for exhibitions, public performances, private celebrations, or quiet meditation. Education studios and classrooms are concentrated at penthouse level, providing students access to the large Rooftop Sculpture Garden. New education spaces include a dedicated lobby and reception, clay studio, kiln room, and two exterior studios for seasonal activities.
Founded in 1995, Michael Maltzan Architecture is a Los Angeles architecture and urban design practice of approximately 25 people, led by Michael Maltzan. Our studio is focused on cross-discipline partnerships to integrate social and environmental sustainability, construction innovation, and architectural form. The practice has been recognized with five Progressive Architecture awards, 47 citations from the AIA, and the Rudy Bruner Foundation’s Gold Medal for Urban Excellence. Our work has been featured in publications and museum exhibitions worldwide, including monographic exhibitions at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, the Harvard GSD, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the Carnegie Museum’s Heinz Architectural Center. Our work was selected for the 2006, 2018, and 2020 La Biennale di Venezia and is included in the permanent collections of Carnegie Museum of Art, MoMA, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art.