Audain update shows massive project scale 

After some setbacks venue on track to open in the fall of 2015

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CATHRYN ATKINSON - Executive Director The Audain Art Museum's Suzanne Greening speaks to the RMOW about the plans for the gallery.
  • Photo by Cathryn Atkinson
  • Executive Director The Audain Art Museum's Suzanne Greening speaks to the RMOW about the plans for the gallery.

The shell of the ark-shaped Audain Museum of Art is emerging metre by metre from the woods on Blackcomb Way, as construction continues.

A year out from the museum's opening in the fall of 2015, the Audain's project manager Hugh Ker delivered an update and slideshow on the work to Whistler Council at its regular council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

"As you can see, we're building like crazy," Ker said during his presentation.

"We plan to work through the winter. I get to go to the site every couple of weeks for site meetings... I think that at my last meeting two weeks ago I was particularly struck by how far it has come along and how spectacular a structure it is.

"You don't get the opportunity to get as close to the building as we do to see the complexity of the structure that is going together. It's a very, very simple building... but to pull off something simple it takes a lot of detailed work."

The images he showed included the access walkway points, with the raised walkway not yet in place but with the rebar meant to hold it now being laid in. The building, being constructed on a flood plain near Fitzsimmons Creek, will be a storey above the ground. This also provides covered space for activities beneath the building envelope.

Ker explained that prefabricated wood panels now being put in place have been constructed at BC Passive House in Pemberton and take only 20 to 30 minutes to fit in place.

"The scale of the building is quite a bit bigger than you think it is," Ker said.

He explained the next stages of construction with concrete to be poured soon.

"My hope is that, with all due respect to Whistler Library, we will be soon be bumping it to No. 6 on Trip Advisor," said Ker, in response to an earlier comment about the library reaching No. 5 in the top things to see in Whistler.

Ker was joined by the museum's executive director Suzanne Greening, who introduced herself to councillors and talked about the selection of artworks from the vast collection of entrepreneur Michael Audain, who is giving many of his art treasures to the resort.

The museum will house a vast collection of British Columbian art, from 18th-century indigenous masks to 20th-century masterpieces by painter Emily Carr.

Greening expressed gratitude to the Resort Municipality of Whistler for its involvement in bringing the Audain Museum to Whistler and called that "an understatement."

She said: "The legacy that Michael Audain is leaving to Canadians, to B.C.ers, to Whistlerites, to the artists of B.C., is phenomenal."

She explained that the opportunity to establish the museum convinced her to move to the resort from Abbotsford, where she was already well established.

"When we open next fall I know we will be there with all the bells and whistles to celebrate what is truly a legacy," she said.

"We are looking at a fall 2015 opening. There was a little bit of slippage (of timeframe) because of the complexity of the steel, but we have workers on the site seven days a week and we've caught up... we're looking at a late summer occupancy (of the building).

"And I am sure as I am standing here speaking, Michael is buying yet another piece."

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said she had attended a construction barbecue at the site in August.

"You really don't realize the complexity of the building and the size of it until you are on the site. It's remarkable. We are just so thrilled to have this museum come to Whistler," she said.

Also at the meeting, the signage for the museum was passed by council after being recommended for approval by staff.

- With files from Alison Taylor


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