A self-adhering air- and water-barrier protects Canadian art collection from the elements.
The multi-award-winning Audain Art Museum is quintessentially Canadian, from the eclectic art housed inside to the unassuming yet masterfully planned and executed hockey-stick-shaped building itself. Yet, despite all the beauty on display for visitors, unseen elements make this building notable as well.
The 56,000-sq.-ft. private museum (audainartmuseum.com) sits nestled amidst the alpine forest of Whistler, British Columbia. The exterior is clad in dark metal, allowing it to blend with the shadows of the surrounding forest as well as handle the high snow loads typical of the area. As noted by the Architectural Institute of British Columbia (AIBC, aibc.ca), the deliberately restrained form and character of the building provide a quiet, minimalistic backdrop to the art within and the surrounding natural landscape.
Once up close, one can see the museum sits on six concrete piers. This was done to accommodate flood-plain conditions from a nearby creek. The result is that the structure appears to be floating amongst the trees while sitting a full story above the grade. Patkau Architects (patkau.ca), the Vancouver-based architectural firm that designed the building, was tasked with creating a high-performance building that would preserve the precious art inside it while blending into the natural vegetation around it.
Wrapped Up Tight
While the envelope may appear simple, it was very challenging to build, having numerous angles and sloping walls—with some at a 50-deg. slant. The metal cladding also posed a challenge because of the ribbed pattern on the building’s exterior.
The Audain Art Museum is designed to protect its contents through the harsh winters of the Canadian Rockies and the architects chose Delta-Vent SA, a vapor-permeable, self-adhering air- and water-resistive barrier, from Dörken Systems Inc., Beamsville, Ontario (dorken.com), to provide protection.
The air tightness provided by a fully adhered membrane helps lower energy costs. The adhesion capability of the membrane helped speed up the building process by allowing builders to construct the roof panels ahead of time in a modular format in a factory setting. This meant the membrane could be installed in a controlled environment rather than an unpredictable one, and the panels could be transported to the site without the membrane blowing off.
The high vapor permeability of Delta-Vent SA allows moisture within the building to escape through the membrane, protecting the museum interior. The characteristics of the product help the museum maintain a constant temperature and humidity level year-round to protect the artwork.
Above the Flood Plain
“The constraint of working within the forest in a flood plain drove the configuration of the building in a powerful way,” noted John Patkau, principal of Patkau Architects. Without a proper drainage system, the building would surely be damaged and the art inside would be left vulnerable. An improperly installed waterproofing system that lacks a drainage system can allow hydrostatic pressure to build, making any crack in a foundation an access point for water damage. The key water-management issue on this project was the prevention of degradation by liquid water of the concrete piers. The architects needed to control the flow of below-grade water and direct it away from the load-bearing components of the building.
Delta-Drain, a drainage board that provides high compressive strength, excellent drainage capacity, and exceptional long-term performance was installed.
Visitors may not know it, but attention to behind-the-sciences details will enhance their enjoyment of the museum for many years.
Design Worth Celebrating
While housing an impressive collection of Canadian art, The Audain Art Museum is truly a masterpiece in and of itself. In fact, the general contractor, subtrades, and the architects responsible for its construction secured four awards at the 2016 28th annual Vancouver Regional Construction Association’s (VRCA, vrca.ca) Awards of Excellence gala and one medal at the 2017 Architectural Institute of British Columbia Architectural Awards.
• Pocklington Building Systems Limited, Whistler, British Columbia, (pbswhistler.com), won the 2016 Awards of Excellence Gold in the President’s Trade Award $1 million to $3 million category
• Alpine West Systems Electrical, Vancouver (awse.ca), was awarded the 2016 Awards of Excellence Gold in the Electrical Contractors Award up to $2 million category
• European Touch Hardwood Floors Inc., Vancouver (ethfloors.com), won 2016 Awards of Excellence Silver Award in the Chairman’s Trade Award up to $1 million category
• Axiom Builders, Vancouver (axiombuilders.ca), won the 2016 Awards of Excellence Silver in the General Contractors Award $15 million to $45 million category
• Patkau Architects Inc., Vancouver (patkau.ca), won the AIBC 2017 Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia Award in Architecture Medal.