New Brunswick

Fredericton's Beaverbrook Art Gallery is a step closer to getting a new look

The city’s planning advisory committee approved a variance at Wednesday night’s meeting that will allow the new entryway and pavilion to be built much closer to the street.

Committee approves variance for development that would push gallery to the sidewalk

A rendering of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery's exterior after its expansion. (Beaverbrook Art Gallery)

Fredericton's planning advisory committee approved a variance at Wednesday night's meeting that will allow a new entryway and pavilion for the Beaverbrook Art Gallery to be built much closer to the street.

"It's right at the sidewalk," said Tom Smart, the gallery's director.

The corners of the building will reach the sidewalk but it will become concave toward the centre, setting the doorway back from the sidewalk and up a set of stairs. Smart likened the stairs to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York — a place for people to congregate and a chance to bring them into the gallery.

"It's certainly going to change the nature of that end of Queen Street," said Coun. John MacDermid. 

A rendering of the side and front of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery after its expansion. (Beaverbrook Art Gallery)

Shirley Blumberg of KPMB Architects was hired to design the new expansion. Smart said the street's surroundings were taken into consideration in talks with Blumberg. 

"We wanted to pick up on some of the architectural vocabulary in the neighbourhood behind the legislature, the porticos and the porches the rhythms down here in the historic district," he said. "We've picked up some motifs and wanted this architecture to reflect that."

Although the planning committee passed the variance with no objection, there was some apprehension from the public. 

Local architect Ann Scovil, who was at the meeting for another matter, questioned the building's proximity to the street. 

A rendering of the front entrance to the gallery. (Beaverbrook Art Gallery)

"This is a very public front, basically it creates a new frontage for the art gallery," said Scovil. "It's a very dramatic, long image to be introducing on Queen Street in my opinion. ... It's going to be very dominant." 

The new construction will house a café, a gift shop and gallery space.

"There will be a glass wall that people can see into and through and there will be art and projections," said Smart. "It just opens up many many more possibilities for the exhibition of art and for visitor services and amenities."

But Smart said the old will not be erased. 

"What we're doing is enclosing the front facade in this new building to reflect our respect not only for Lord Beaverbrook and what he did for the community and for art in Canada, but we want people to move through the sense of history into the new space by appreciating that great classical facade, which is going to be a very important part of the interior space."

This is a rendering of what the Beaverbrook Art Gallery would look like inside the front entrance after its expansion. (Beaverbrook Art Gallery)

Construction is expected to begin in the late spring, after flooding season. 

In an announcement last fall, the federal government committed $1 million from the Department of Canadian Heritage and $500,000 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to the project.

Smart did not disclose how much the project would cost overall and said the budget was still being worked out.

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