Art Gallery of Ontario
Clifford Pearson: What was your thinking at the start of this project?
Matthew Teitelbaum: In the beginning, we had two main goals—to create some great new spaces for art and to fix some of the circulation problems we had. This was our seventh expansion so the museum had grown piece by piece by piece. As we started working with Frank, we developed more specific goals. We wanted to establish a clear destination for the art, so visitors can encounter it quickly and directly. Transparency was also important—not just in terms of bringing in good light, but in showing the various functions of the museum, such as research and storage. And we wanted a strong connection to the city. That’s why Frank designed a long glass façade on Dundas Street. He said he wanted it to be like a painting reflecting the houses across the street.
CP: Explain the way the museum works now as a place for art.
MT: The museum is all about the tension between the institutional scale and the domestic. The sequence of galleries keeps changing in pace, from the grand, almost operatic to the intimate. Frank was careful about this. He also made sure that spaces aren’t too specific, that they could be used differently in the future.
CP: What kind of role does Walker Court now play in the museum?
MT: In the past, Walker Court was sometimes used for art, sometimes for special events. I always hated when we had to close the court to the public as we set it up for an event. I don’t think it sent the right message. Now it’s at the heart of the museum again and filled with light. Frank insisted that we have art in it; he didn’t want it to be just an architectural moment.
CP: What do you like most about the new building?
MT: I love the way Frank created journeys throughout the building. The experience of moving from space to space is so critical here.
CP: When you started the project, did you consider running a design competition?
MT: No, we knew that commissioning an architect is about a relationship, while a competition is more about a specific idea or image. We felt that Frank would do something great here, because of his connection with Toronto.