The Gardiner is one of the keystones of the cultural renaissance of Toronto. The city's cultural quarter has been re-inventing itself over the past decade; the Gardiner is opposite the Libeskind-extended Royal Ontario Museum and round the corner from the Royal Conservatory of Music.
When Keith Wagland designed the Ceramics Museum in 1983, he made it future-proof by giving it a structure that would allow for upward expansion. Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg have taken advantage – and side-stepped numerous planning constraints, including protected views of an adjacent neo-classical building – by putting the 14,00 square foot extension on top of the old museum. The extra space hosts a new gallery for large-scale contemporary works, better storage, a new studio and facilities for the museum's research and community outreach activities. The existing building was re-configured to focus on the fine collection of ceramics.
The old and new work is all of a piece; the original pink granite cladding has been replaced by a stylish cream limestone, which complements the sleek glass and black granite columns. The scheme is further knitted together by some understated landscaping.
Internally the removal of a staircase in the entrance hall was the move which unlocked a series of solutions. The shop could move to the front to tempt in passers-by and circulation could be improved with a new lift/stair tower. Additionally a former underground car park was dug out to provide the extra metre of headroom for new ceramic studios and, above all this, on the roof of the second floor, a terrace was created serving the third floor pavilion. The whole scheme successfully adopts a palette of materials and textures that subtly comment on the nature of the ceramic exhibits.