Photo: Sarah Hicks

Renovation and Addition

Designed by Frank Gehry, the renovated Art Gallery of Ontario has been called “the most complex wood structure in North America.” The Dundas Street façade includes 1,800 glulam members, each of which is unique, as are the 2,500 glulam connectors. The enclosed portion of the façade is comprised of two layers. Forty-seven radial arches form the inner layer and provide lateral support for wind load on the second layer—a mullion grid that supports the glazing and transfers its weight vertically down to the floor. In addition to impressive structural applications, wood was used decoratively to provide visual highlights throughout the interior.

Project Details

Introduction – about the AGO

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) was founded in 1900 as the Art Museum of Toronto. In 1919 it became the Art Gallery of Toronto and in 1966, took on its present name. The original gallery was a home (The Grange) built around 1817, located on the south side of the AGO facing Grange Park (Figure 1). In fall 2008, the Art Gallery of Ontario received wide acclaim when its recent renovation and addition, designed by Frank Gehry, was opened to the public. The work involved the renovation of existing spaces and the addition of 9,016 m2 (92,000 ft.2) of new floor space.

The renovation and addition to the AGO is notable for several reasons. First, the design needed to unify and enhance previous constructions done in 1918, 1929, the 1970s and the 1980s. The design team made extraordinary use of structural and decorative wood elements to achieve this goal, as well as to lure, calm, entice and amaze visitors. In addition, the AGO needed to remain functional for prolonged periods during the construction process.

Finally, the wood design, fabrication and erection was very complex. In the words of Bill Downing of Structurlam Products Ltd., the glulam supplier, in reference to the Galleria Italia portion of the AGO, “This is the most complex wood structure in North America.”

Read the Case Study