New Brunswick

Design unveiled for New Brunswick Museum's proposed 'landmark' exhibition centre

The New Brunswick Museum has unveiled an early design for its new exhibition centre on the Saint John waterfront.

A contract has been issued to demolish 2 Coast Guard buildings this month, which are located on the site

The proposed design for the 120,000 Square foot New Brunswick Museum Exhibition Centre, as seen from the Saint John boardwalk. (New Brunswick Museum)

The New Brunswick Museum has unveiled an early design for its new combined exhibition centre on the Saint John waterfront.

The "landmark" four-storey, 120,000-square-foot building is intended to present a glass and terra cotta front on two sides facing the harbour and Market Square, and a more traditional look toward the uptown.

It will be a "synthesis" of New Brunswick in many ways, said Alex Leung of grc architects in Ottawa.

"We were inspired by the skeleton of the whale bones, the idea of shipbuilding, the wood of New Brunswick," Leung said. "And perhaps some of those elements can be incorporated to form the architecture of the building."

Leung is partnering on the project with Saint John architect Malcolm Boyd of Murdock and Boyd, which was also involved in the design of the Law Courts in Saint John and the Quispamsis Town Hall and Qplex.

The final design is not expected to be completed until 2019 or even later, said Boyd.

The two architects are working with exhibition designer Marc Belanger to incorporate the interior features with the exterior of the "public" space.

Construction cost has been set at $60 million. 

Getting the doors open to the public with exhibits in place will push the total cost to about $100 million, museum CEO Bill Hicks has estimated.

The province has promised $50 million, and funding talks are underway with the federal government.

In the meantime, Saint John council has awarded a contract to demolish two Canadian Coast Guard buildings now on the site.

Paving the way for a landmark 

The municipality will pay Galbraith Construction $368,000 for the work, paving the way for construction of a "landmark" New Brunswick Museum building.

"It's the building on the right and the blue garage that will come down," said Saint John Mayor Don Darling. 

"Part of our requirement is to turn the site over to the province without that building in place."

A third building, a red brick, four storey office tower, will remain in place for the time being, but will eventually be removed to make way for what Darling calls "future development sites."

The City of Saint John has issued a contract for demolition of the Coast Guard utilities building and a nearby workshop this month. The office building on the left will likely be demolished at a later date. (CBC)

The museum is intended to be the first piece for the long anticipated Fundy Quay development, which could someday include residential and commercial projects on the waterfront next to Market Square.

"The New Brunswick Museum should serve as a landmark building defining the Central Peninsula by anchoring the Uptown Waterfront with a signature cultural space," said a document titled "Design Guidelines" included in the letter of intent between the city and the province.

The building should be "easily recognizable and prominent" states the document.

It is also to be fronted close to the sidewalk on Water Street to "repair the streetscape" lost when a parking lot was established decades ago in front of the federal building.

The coast guard is moving its operations to new quarters in the McAllister Industrial Park.

The Saint John Parking Commission issued notices Tuesday to monthly parkers in an adjacent lot informing them the upcoming demolition will result in the closing of the lot for approximately two weeks.


Connell Smith is a reporter with CBC in Saint John. He can be reached at 632-7726