Royal Alberta Museum: The new home for Alberta’s stories is now open!
Royal Alberta Museum finally opens today, and we couldn’t be more excited! Our integrated team of architects, interior designers, landscape architects and structural, mechanical and electrical engineers designed a place for gathering, discovering the human and natural history of Alberta, and protecting the objects that tell these stories.
Ahead of opening, the Amiskwaciy Theatre in the new Royal Alberta Museum hosted one of its first events. Media were given a sneak peek inside the new Royal Alberta Museum, but were first treated to a few words from Chris Robinson, Executive Director of RAM, and Donna Clare, DIALOG principal and lead architect for the project. Donna spoke from the heart and reminded everyone in the room what makes this place special for all Albertans. Even if you’re not from Alberta, her words (shared below) will help you understand why DIALOG is so proud to design the new home for Alberta’s stories.
Donna Clare: I had the pleasure of leading the integrated team of talented, local architects, engineers, interior designer and landscape architects who designed this museum and brought it to life with Michael Lundholm, our museum planner and Ledcor, our design-build contractor.
This project is very special to us. To be able to design the new home for Alberta’s natural and human history was an incredible gift. We got to spend time thinking about Alberta and what it means to us. We got to know the museum, its mission and its mandate. And we got to create a place that supports the staff in the telling of Alberta stories and in preserving of our history.
I believe museums are one of the most important ways we create our future in this province. This museum preserves our past, who we were, where we came from, and why it matters. It serves as an inspiration—shows us the best of what we have done and challenges us to think about our future and what it can be.
We wanted the museum to reflect these ideas. To make us know and remember who we are.
We wanted the museum to be anchored in this place, our city and our province. We wanted to heighten visitor’s awareness of this unique and powerful place and to spark their curiosity.
This design could be nowhere else. It reflects the history of the site and our capital city–the layout is informed by our deep connection to the land and the survey grids that come together on this site. The building opens to two courtyards drawing nature into the heart of the building. The human history and natural history of our province are inseparable.
To quote Margaret Atwood, “Sigmund Freud said that biology is destiny. Had he been a Canadian, he might have said geology is destiny.” Nowhere is that truer than Alberta.
Isabella Courtyard to the west is the old alignment of 104 Avenue and Fraser Courtyard and the long-term galleries align with the former 98 Street. At the intersection is the lobby, a great public space and a gift to our city.
The design also connects to the downtown core, cantilevering out to terminate 99 Street. It has indoor and outdoor spaces to be an active partner in the Arts District and the downtown festivals.
Transparency is an important aspect of the design. The museum is open, inviting and inclusive. There are generous windows with views into the lobby, the main public space of the museum, its town square. From within there are framed views outward, to downtown Edmonton and up to our ever-changing prairie sky.
There are windows into the back-of-house. You get glimpses of the curators at work… maybe see them moving a mammoth back and forth to the gallery.
At night, the museum glows, revealing itself even more.
The museum is also about equity. One can experience much of the museum without the need to purchase a ticket including one of its most precious artifacts, the Manitou stone.
There are many Alberta stories built into the very fabric of the building and its grounds. An aspen leaf canopy creates a solar shade for the Children’s Gallery. A prairie lightning storm enlivens The Roundhouse and the night sky stars above. The North Saskatchewan watershed wraps the walls of the Feature Gallery with rivers, lakes, towns and cities. The icy flow of a river winds its way across the ceiling of the Group Arrivals lobby.
Outside, the plantings are specific to Alberta and the Northern Boreal Forest. Prairie grasses, Aspen trees, Spruce and snowberry. And you will also see plants developed by Albertans such as the daylilies in the café garden.
When my parents took me as a young girl to the then Provincial Museum of Alberta, it showed me that Alberta was important and that its people—including me—could dare to dream.
And it showed me that we have so much to learn from the indigenous people who welcomed us to share their land. A debt we can never repay.
I hope that the museum becomes an essential part of your experience of Edmonton and Alberta. That each time you visit you see something new, you learn something about our province and its people, and our place in the world. And you are inspired to care deeply about its future.
For media inquiries, please visit this page.
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