Royal Alberta Museum
The new home for Alberta's stories
By capturing and expressing Alberta’s history, landscapes, and promising potential, the Royal Alberta Museum’s new signature building engages the public and changes our perception of the museum.
The design concept begins from a deep understanding of the Royal Alberta Museum (“RAM”), the province, and the site. The architecture gives primacy to the stories and the objects of the museum. The engineering responds to this vision, creating a museum that is sustainable, contributes to a vibrant downtown, is well designed, and fully accessible. It is a place to explore and connect—to Alberta, to ideas, to people.
- Edmonton, AB
- Government of Alberta
- DIALOG Services
Planning & Urban Design
Chris Robinson, Executive Director of Royal Alberta Museum
From a public perspective, this building is striking. What the public doesn’t necessarily see is its functionality. This building also provides us with the right conditions and tools to conserve the millions of objects held in our care.
It all started with a sketch.
Human history is brought to life through the placement of the gallery blocks that align with the province’s two main survey grids, with the lobby between. The gallery blocks and outdoor courts reference two lost historic streets that once made up a finer Downtown grid. Playing against these rectilinear volumes are curvilinear gardens and built forms, a sculptural stair and ceiling treatments recalling the rivers, trees, and natural features of Alberta.
The blank canvas in the heart of the city presented a unique opportunity to create a perfectly-suited facility with more space for displays, growing collections, and state of the art research labs. The architecture gives primacy to the stories, the artifacts, and the objects of the museum. The engineering systems respond to and support this vision. RAM is designed for resiliency, reliability, temperature and humidity stability, and low operating costs. All the building systems were thoughtfully integrated into the design.
A notable structural accomplishment was the spiral cast-in-place concrete feature stair located in the main entrance lobby. The stair is the focal point of the lobby and provides enjoyable access to the second level Natural History Gallery. This massive, swooping staircase spans nearly 18 linear meters from a concrete wall located near the base all the way up to the second floor. The stair’s spiraling architectural form was inspired by water-carved canyons in the Rocky Mountains.
The landscape gestures, both large and small, speak to the region’s past through storytelling and to the ecologies of Alberta. The setting and public realm are integrated and cohesive, an essential part of both the formal programming and the visitor experience. The design amplifies the history of the neighbourhood and the city by reflecting the historic survey grids, recalling lost streets and incorporating memories of past buildings and uses on the site.
Mosaic artwork by Ernestine Tahedl and the exterior clock that once graced the post office on the site are given new life. The mosaic panels were carefully removed, restored and reincorporated into the façade of the museum, within inches of their original location, to create an engaging screen for the café garden along the 103A Avenue pedestrian promenade.