Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum | Wembley, Alberta

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Program
Cultural
Client
County of Grande Prairie No.1
Location
Wembley, Alberta
Status
Complete
Architects
ATB, Reich+Petch, Design International
Year
2014

The Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum aspires to become an internationally significant centre of paleontology in fossil-rich northern Alberta.  Visitors to the museum move through a sequence of spaces and experiences that form an architectural narrative of the fascinating Pipestone Creek dinosaur bone-bed. They start at a re-creation of the bone-bed to learn the story of the present-day artifacts. They then see from a glass box cantilevered into the lab space the paleontologists studying and preparing artifacts.

Two massive retaining walls push back the earth to expose the museum floor four metres below to which visitors descend to see the assembled skeletons. As they journey north, the narrative switches back and slopes further down to the Devonian Gallery exhibiting Alberta’s pre-dinosaur history. The form of the roof can be seen as being ambiguously organic and prehistoric, while simultaneously referencing the rolling prairie landscape and the jagged white horizon formed by the Rocky Mountains to the south-west, as if the land itself was lifted up to reveal the secrets buried in the earth below.

New technology was developed to construct the wood structure, and in particular, the nodes where up to eight large beams meet at a single point. The design team pioneered a technique of laminating plywood to create structural connections. The extensive use of wood, much of it sourced from local mountain pine beetle killed forests, the barn-like post-and-beam structure and the raw aluminum cladding are references to the Peace River Country’s history of agriculture and forestry.

AWARDS

2015 Wood Works! Alberta – Prairie Wood Design Award: Commercial/Institutional Wood Design
2015 Wood Works! Alberta – Wood Advocate Award

2015 Wood Works! Alberta – Engineer Wood Advocate Award (awarded to Fast & Epp / StructureCraft)