Toronto, Canada

Suzanne Powadiuk Design/ Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects


When Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects (KPMB) was offered the commission of designing a 14,000-square-foot expansion to Toronto’s Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, opened in 1984 as Canada’s only museum devoted to ceramics, KPMB quickly tapped long-time collaborator Suzanne Powadiuk Design to complete the project’s interior lighting design. The partnership between the two teams is apparent to the trained eye—and appropriately, invisible to all others.

The Gardiner expansion is just one piece of a larger cultural renaissance in Toronto that includes the expansion or new construction of facilities for the National Ballet School and the Royal Conservatory of Music (both KPMB), the Royal Ontario Museum (Studio Daniel Libeskind), and the Art Gallery of Ontario (Gehry Partners). The museum’s design brief charged KPMB with increasing its visibility on Queen’s Park, which Powadiuk calls “Toronto’s version of Fifth Avenue.” Where the building had previously retreated from the street, the expansion would move toward it, and a third story would announce its presence further.

The result of KPMB’s work, which reopened in June 2006, is a series of terraced volumes that form a contemporary counterpart to the Flemish gable–adorned assemblage adjacent to it. A second floor boldly projects toward the street, doing double duty as an entrance awning, and a third-story restaurant component glows like a lantern from behind its horizontal limestone louvers.

That glow is produced by a straightforward formula, primarily a combination of T8s and MR16s. The halogen lamps highlight exhibition areas and fluorescent tubes signify areas of transition, such as the high-traffic lobby and the ground-floor stair landing. Importantly, these T8s are embedded within narrow ceiling channels; in a refined detail, the drywall is beveled at each slit in order for the ceiling to appear perfectly flat. On the newly constructed third floor, where the ceilings are significantly higher, those incisions are deep enough to accept Lighting Services Inc. track lighting. Powadiuk also settled upon a color temperature of 3000 Kelvin to provide warmth to KPMB’s palette of grays, white, and natural wood tones.

Powadiuk explains that, because of ceramics’ durability, a lighting designer can take significant creative liberties to illuminate a museum environment devoted to the discipline. But restraint drove her contribution to the Gardiner Museum. “The lighting is very integrated, and the expression of the ceiling is directly related to it,” she says of the channel’s beveled edges. The original lighting scheme—ceilings studded almost haphazardly with cans—is still mounted within the museum’s 24-year-old exhibition spaces, and the contrast between old and new further proves Powadiuk’s graceful result.


Lighting designer:
Suzanne Powadiuk Design Inc.
73 Montclair Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M5P 1P5
ph: 416.966.4251
fx: 416.966.8954

Founding member: 
Suzanne Powadiuk

Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects
322 King Street West
Toronto, Ontario M5V 1J2
ph: 416.977.5104
fx: 416.598.9840

Design partner: 
Bruce Kuwabara

Shirley Blumberg

Design/project architect: 
Paulo Rocha

Project team: 
John Allen, Kevin Bridgman, Steven Casey, Bill Colaco, Ramon Janer, Tom Knezic, Carolyn Lee, Shane O'Neill, Thom Seto, Tyler Sharpe, Javier Uribe

Structural engineer:
Halsall Associates Limited
2300 Yonge Street
Suite 2300
Toronto, Ontario M4P 1E4
ph: 416.487.5256
fx: 416.487.9766

Mechanical and electrical engineer:
Crossey Engineering Ltd.
2255 Sheppard Avenue East
Suite E-331
Toronto, Ontario M2J 3Y1
ph: 416.497.3111

Exhibition design consultants
PS Design

Landscape consultant
NAK Design

Cost consultant
Vermeulen Cost Consultants

Fire and life safety consultant
Leber/Rubes Inc.

Elevator consultant
Soberman Engineering

Branding consultant
Scott Thornley + Company Inc.

Food services
Marrack + Associates

Tom Arban Photography, Toronto

Edward Hueber/Arch Photo Inc., New York

General contractor:
Urbacon Ltd




Halogen downlights

Recessed linear fluorescent/halogen downlights

Track lighting

Controls and dimming system