MacLaren Art Centre

Location Barrie, Ontario
Status Completed 2001
Size 25,000 sq.ft / 2,320 m²
Partner Siamak Hariri
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“Under the leadership of Siamak Hariri, the HPA team performed remarkably. In developing the architectural programme they did more than simply listening with sensitivity to gain a deep understanding – they became us and felt our needs. We experienced the firm’s commitment in the creation of a facility that will stand the test of time and be what it is – a great building.”

— William Moore, Former Executive Director of the MacLaren Art Centre

The design of the MacLaren Art Centre was conceived with the idea of the gallery as a place for the community to come together, and derives from a commitment to openness, transparency, and the demystification of art. To this end HPA integrated the historic Carnegie Library (c. 1917) with a new wing and an internal sculpture courtyard. The main entrance draws visitors in at the junction of the new addition and the historic Library. The spacious, sky-lit lobby creates an immediate sense of welcome with a fireplace and café/shop. This unobstructed space leads downwards into the education studio, and upwards into galleries in the heritage structure.

Compared to some institutions, the MacLaren’s gallery rooms are not very big. However, long views create a sense of expansiveness—one can look down stairs, into adjacent rooms, and through windows, to spaces inside and out. Large windows and carefully placed skylights fill spaces with natural light. The idea of openness is reinforced by making the café, shop and interesting activities visible from the street. Outside, thoughtful landscaping underscores the civic grandeur of the former Carnegie Library. The Centre has become a regional leader because its secure, environmentally controlled exhibition spaces meet professional museum standards, allowing it to host significant artworks and touring exhibits.The project received the 2003 National Post Design Exchange Award of Merit.

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