Turning a Garage into Gallery

Turning a Garage into Gallery

Established in 2004, the Nicholas Metivier Gallery has become one of Canada’s most distinguished contemporary art vendors. With business growth, the Gallery required a significantly larger display space and the opportunity to host more than one exhibition at a time. The design challenge, however, was to transform a derelict auto shop into an evocative spatial experience. This project was completed in 2018.

Interior Designer: Stella McTernan, ARIDO

Design Firm: McTernan Design Associates

Photographer: A-Frame Inc.

The interplay of the building’s perimeter glazing and interior structural grid ultimately informed the layout. The original overhead garage doors were removed and replaced with new windows, consisting of a central clear glass panel, flanked by two slender translucent side panels that obscure the view directly in and out of the Gallery while leaving intriguing oblique views. Floating drywall panels mirror the centre windows and establish a unique display opportunity that connects the street and gallery environments, and diffuses natural lighting throughout the gallery interior. The formal symmetry of the gallery space gains a relaxed edge from the gritty characteristic markings of the original concrete floor, a patina now activated by a polished finish. 

Fire-rated structural columns and overhead trusses, remnants of the garage structure, are embedded within the walls, which informs a sense of flow and creates three distinct yet interdependent gallery areas. Taking advantage of the depth of these walls, the design team saw an opportunity to add concealed storage spaces at each end. A recessed track and rod hanging system, which permits sleek staging of exhibitions, creates a greater range of adaptability within the Gallery space. A track lighting system with exceptional colour rendering capabilities and flexible beam angles acts in unison, providing optimal lighting and flexibility to best show off the works on display.

In planning the space, the intention was that the Gallery would separate office work and Gallery areas so that entry into the Gallery space becomes a pure experience. As such, staff work areas are easily accessible, yet unobtrusive. As the space narrows towards the back of the gallery, the design signals the more private areas of the Gallery. The Viewing Room and office are located with direct access to the Art Storage Room. On the opposite side of the gallery, concealed by an oversize sliding door, are the receiving area, coffee bar and accessible washroom.  

The design solution considers the needs of all end-users; owner, staff, clients, and artists. The owner noted, “I feel proud - it is a beautiful space. I get relentless acknowledegment from clients. My artists are ecstatic – they think the lighting is fabulous. The Viewing Room is brilliant and clients really like it. It is very private and has a different vibe. When I meet with people there or in my office, they are relaxed so they can be open to talking about art. Sales increased significantly over the same time last year." The gallery display space is open and inviting with a clear sense of orientation that makes people feel relaxed and welcome. 

The design solution can be best understood as an exercise in confidence and restraint, a neutral yet inviting space that allows the architecture to sit back as the artworks move forward in visual prominence. 

Stella McTernan

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Stella McTernan

McTernan Design Associates

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