Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

A design competition to reimagine Halifax's waterfront

Civic & Culture

DIALOG with Acre Architects, Brackish Design Studio and Shannon Webb-Campbell were selected as one of three finalists in the competition to design the new Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in September 2020. The submission, titled Sea Change, is an ambitious call to move beyond the traditional museum mandate of display and conservation to embrace new programs, art forms, practices and disciplines.

The building form is inspired in part by the local fog; sea smoke. This misty moving blanket envelopes the harbour, the boardwalk, and the buildings with a soft light that harmonizes the colors and textures of the land and water, while gently moving a moving and undulating along its length.

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Halifax, NS
Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, Province of Nova Scotia; Develop Nova Scotia; Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

Acre Architects
Brackish Design Studio
Shannon Webb-Campbell
Charcoal Blue
Jensen Hughes
Local Projects
RJ Bartlett Engineering Ltd
Tillotson Design

DIALOG Services

Interior Design
Planning & Urban Design
Structural Engineering

With the Great Harbour as the foundation for Halifax’s urban development, the design creates an open invitation to further explore the site’s dynamic relationship with the sea.

The entire ground plane, indoors and out, is devoted to new forms of cultural expression and art-making that break from the traditional mold of the public art institution.

A bridge creates a stunning covered entry and plaza area, the ‘belly of the whale.’ This wood clad multi-curving canopy defines an expansive covered plaza space, which we call the People’s Gallery.

The materiality for the building has been developed by taking cues from the surrounding landscape and atmospheric conditions of the Atlantic coast.

Sea smoke, faded boardwalk planks, tones of coastal edges, textures and patterns found in nature, complemented and contrasted with simple, robust materials fundamental to the maritime vernacular.

The site organization forms an ‘Eddy’ around the building; inspired by ocean and cultural currents.

The Team

“The arts district will be a welcoming and inclusive public gathering place on the Halifax Waterfront that showcases the best in contemporary art and public programs.”

Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
New AGNS Design Competition Presentations A design competition to reimagine Halifax's waterfront

Moving through the gently curving floor of the temporary galleries one comes upon the final gallery. This gallery is called the First Light Gallery, at this point the building opens dramatically to remarkable views of the harbour and St George’s Island. Oriented to the sunrise over the harbour, this gallery is a place to welcome the dawn, marking time in a different way, and to celebrate the works of Indigenous artists