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Audain Art Museum

Designed by John and Patricia Patkau, David Shone and their firm Patkau Architects of Vancouver, British Columbia, the Audain Art Museum is nestled in a grove of Englemann and Sitka Spruce hybrids and was designed to integrate seamlessly into its surroundings. located in Whistler BC, is carefully sited within a mature Pacific Northwest mountain landscape. The museum is a masterful work by Patkau Architects and houses the private art collection of Michael Audain. His extraordinary collection includes both contemporary works and historic aboriginal art.

Audain-Art-Museum-By-Patkau-Architects-01-James-Dow-759x759 Audain Art Museum / Patkau Architects

© James Dow

Patkau Architect’s design features a main section for the art collection of Michael Audain and his wife Yoshiko, as well as a wing for temporary exhibits. The main section is two levels, with the first floor featuring 1,300 square meters (14,000 square feet) of exhibition space. The temporary exhibition wing is 557 square meters (6,000 square feet) and boasts a ceiling that will soar in places up to 9 metres (30 feet) in height.

Audain-Art-Museum-By-Patkau-Architects-04-James-Dow-759x511 Audain Art Museum / Patkau Architects

© James Dow

The Audain Art Museum is a 56,000 square foot museum located in Whistler, British Columbia. It will house Michael Audain’s personal art collection which traces a visual record of British Columbia from the late 18th century to the present day. It includes one of the world’s finest collections of old First Nation masks, a superb collection of Emily Carr paintings, and works by some of Canada’s most significant post-war artists including Jack Shadbolt, E. J. Hughes, and Gordon Smith, as well as works by internationally regarded contemporary artists such as Jeff Wall, Rodney Graham, Stan Douglas and others.

Audain-Art-Museum-By-Patkau-Architects-06-James-Dow-759x449 Audain Art Museum / Patkau Architects

© James Dow

“The feeling is that the museum will be quietly inserted into a void within the forest,” explains architect John Patkau. “It will be recessive and restrained in its visual presence.”

Audain-Art-Museum-By-Patkau-Architects-07-James-Dow-759x759 Audain Art Museum / Patkau Architects

© James Dow

Audain-Art-Museum-By-Patkau-Architects-08-James-Dow-759x407 Audain Art Museum / Patkau Architects

© James Dow

The structure is elevated one-storey above ground and supported on isolated pad footings and frames spaced 20metres apart. The long span structure consists of a three dimensional steel frame, with concrete composite steel deck floor slabs. The roof structure consists of long-span pre-fabricated engineered wood panels 2.4m wide and up to 16.5m long. The panels are membrane and the shop and chosen to allow for the rapid enclosure of the steel structure regardless of weather conditions.

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© James Dow

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© Derek Lepper

Patkau Architects:

The design of the museum is shaped by three powerful determinants. The first determinant is the need to house both the permanent exhibition of Michael Audain’s collection and, in juxtaposition with this collection, temporary exhibits of all kinds from across Canada and around the world. The second determinant is the beautiful but challenging site in Whistler which, although blessed by magnificent evergreen forest vegetation, is located within the floodplain of Fitzsimmons Creek. The third determinant is the enormous snowfall typical of Whistler which averages nearly 15 ft annual accumulated depth.

Audain-Art-Museum-By-Patkau-Architects-16-James-Dow-759x562 Audain Art Museum / Patkau Architects

© James Dow

“Our design responds to these determinants, simply and directly, by projecting a volume of sequential public spaces and galleries into an existing linear void within the surrounding forest. It is elevated a full storey above the ground and crowned with a steeply sloped roof, containing administration and back-of-house support functions.”

Audain-Art-Museum-By-Patkau-Architects-18-Derek-Lepper-800x1200 Audain Art Museum / Patkau Architects

© Derek Lepper

The building design and siting work synergistically within the context of the site to create a public pedestrian link, beginning from the ‘village stroll’, the pedestrian spine of Whistler Village, across Blackcomb Way, leading to and through the Museum and then across the site to Fitzsimmons Creek park.

Audain-Art-Museum-By-Patkau-Architects-22-James-Dow-800x1200 Audain Art Museum / Patkau Architects

© James Dow

A bridge from Blackcomb Way rises through the forest to arrive at a sky lit museum entry porch. From there, visitors can either descend to the forest floor and central meadow to continue passage through the site, or enter into the museum lobby and event space. Once inside, visitors proceed along a glazed walkway overlooking the meadow below, to gain access first to the galleries which contain the permanent collection and then to the galleries which contain temporary exhibits.

Audain-Art-Museum-By-Patkau-Architects-34-Derek-Lepper-759x506 Audain Art Museum / Patkau Architects

© Derek Lepper

Audain-Art-Museum-By-Patkau-Architects-43-James-Dow-759x808 Audain Art Museum / Patkau Architects

© James Dow

The form and character of the building and interiors is deliberately restrained to provide a quiet, minimal backdrop to the art within and the surrounding natural landscape. The simple form of the exterior is clad in an envelope of dark metal which recedes into the shadows of the surrounding forest. Where this envelope is opened, to provide access in the entry porch or view from the glazed walkway to the galleries, the dark metal is overlaid by a luminous wood casing. Public spaces in the interior, which are visible from the exterior, continue this warm luminous materiality. Gallery interiors in both the permanent and temporary exhibition areas are closed white volumes with minimal detail.

Audain-Art-Museum-By-Patkau-Architects-45-James-Dow-759x434 Audain Art Museum / Patkau Architects

© James Dow

Project Data:

Project name: Audain Art Museum
Location: 4350 Blackcomb Way, Whistler, British Columbia, V0N 1B4, Canada
Coordinates: 50.118048, -122.952945
Type: Art center / Gallery
Site area: n/a
Project Area: 56,000 sq.ft / 5,040 sqm
Design start: November 2012
Construction start: August 2013
Status: Built
Opening Date: March 2016
Completion: 2016
Visit Audain Art Museum’s Website: here


  • 2017 – AZURE Magazine’s Awards – Category: Architecture Over 1,000 sqm – Winner
  • 2017 – Architectural Institute of British Columbia Award – AIBC Architectural Awards – Medal
  • 2017 – Canadian Wood Council Awards – Category: Institutional Wood Design / Large – Nominee

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Audain Art Museum

Project Team:

  • John Patkau, Patricia Patkau, David Shone, Michael Thorpe, Mike Green, Marc Holland, Cam Koroluk, Dimitri Koubatis, Tom Schroeder, Luke Stern, Peter Suter, David Zeibin

General Contractor: Axiom Builders


  • Mechanical/Electrical Engineer: Integral Group
  • Structural Engineer: Equilibrium Consulting
  • Civil: Creus Engineering


  • Landscape Architect: PFS Studio / Tom Barratt
  • Lighting Design: HLB Lighting Design
  • Code: LMDG
  • Building Envelope: Spratt Emanuel Engineering
  • Floodproofing: Kerr Wood Leidal
  • Geotechnical: Geopacific Consultants
  • Snow Management: Mountain Resort Engineering
  • Signage: Gallop Varley
  • Museum Consultant: Lord Cultural Resources
  • Exhibition Design: Bricault Design

Selected suppliers & subcontractors, Manufacturers:

  • Steel Fabricator: George Third & Son, Ltd.
  • Connection design and detailing: Somerset Engineering Group
  • Steel Erector: KWH Constructors

Text Description: © Courtesy of Patkau Architects, Audain Art Museum
Images: © Patkau Architects, Audain Art Museum, James Dow, Derek Lepper, Cast Connex


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Audain Art Museum / Patkau Architects
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