The new Audain Art Museum in Whistler, British Columbia, is the antithesis of the throbbing ski town around it, with its chain stores fashioned as folksy alpine chalets. The highly abstract structure, designed by Vancouver-based Patkau Architects, defers to the surrounding terrain and its wooded site. Whistler’s civic leaders have long been trying to diversify their resort economy and its correlated theme-park architecture, and this museum focused on regional art could be the catalyst that brings a new crowd and a layer of sophistication to the city.
The museum’s primary mandate is to display the personal collection of Vancouver developer and arts patron Michael Audain, whose holdings range from northwest coast art from the 18th century to cutting-edge contemporary works. The municipality provided the land for the museum in the hopes that the building would serve as a cultural oasis and an enclave for quiet contemplation within the bustle of a sporting town. Their hopes are well-placed.