Remai Modern museum in Canadian Prairies comprises stacked volumes

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Remai Modern art museum is a stack of metal and glass blocks in the Canadian Prairies

Toronto-based KPMB Architects has built a riverside art museum in Saskatoon, which is designed in response to the flat plains that surround the Canadian city.

The 126,000-square-foot (approximately 11,705 square metres) Remai Modern opened to the public last month.

It provides a new home for over 7,500 art works from the collection of the Mendel Art Gallery – a major cultural centre in the city that closed in 2015.

"The architecture of the Remai Modern simultaneously looks back and forward," said KPMB Architects.

"It forges a strong relationship to the legacy of the Mendel and creates a platform to reinforce the role of art for the 'advancement of Saskatoon as a creative city dedicated to lifelong learning'."

Saskatoon is the largest city in the prairie province of Saskatchewan. Remai Modern is located on a prominent site in the heart of the city, adjoining the existing Persephone Theatre, and facing the South Saskatchewan River to the south.

KPMB Architects designed the four-storey museum to respond to the "low, flat topography of Saskatchewan's prairie landscape". Working with architect of record Architecture49, the team created a form made up of stacked and cantilevered volumes.

Perforated metal clad some sections of the glazed exterior. Red in colour, this mesh diffuses light into the glazed galleries while maintaining views out.

In other areas the glass is left exposed, to allow more light to penetrate the interiors.

The building can be entered from both the road and the river, to encourage as many pedestrians to venture inside as possible. They can also walk past along a wooden deck built on the southern side, beside a cycle path.

Behind the pathway, more exposed glass offers views into the museum's public spaces on the ground level, including the cafe and shop.

Monochrome finishes feature inside, with spaces arranged around a top-lit atrium. The main staircase is placed in this void, snaking up to the museum's other three levels.

"A central atrium organises the plan and offers a community gathering space," said the studio. "A generously-scaled connecting stair on the ground floor is located to initiate a continuous path through all levels."

On the first floor, the staircase lands onto the gallery lobbies. The museum's permanent collection, which includes linocuts by artist Pablo Picasso, is placed in exhibition spaces on the western side, while the lecture theatre is set to the south.

This level also opens onto a narrow outdoor terrace leading along the southern side sandwiched between glazing and the mesh metal screen.

Additional gallery spaces are located on the level above, while administration facilities occupy the building's top floor.

Other features of the museum include an outdoor sculpture area, which forms part of the gardens on its western side.

The Remai Modern joins a host of impressive new cultural buildings in Canada, including the white granite Aga Khan Museum, the bronze-clad National Music Centre and the Audain Art Museum, which is located in a forest.

Photography is by Adrien Williams.

More images and plans

Site plan
Ground floor plan
Second floor plan
Third floor plan
Fourth floor plan