Renowned artist Maya Lin chosen to design terrace at Glenbow Museum

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A world-renowned American artist known for her 1982 Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. and her 1988 Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, AL has been chosen to design the rooftop terrace at Glenbow Museum.

Maya Lin was in Calgary on Thursday when the announcement was made. She will design the 13,000-square-foot terrace on the fifth-floor rooftop of the building, which has been renamed the JR Shaw Centre for Arts & Culture. The space overlooks downtown Calgary.

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“When (Glenbow CEO Nicholas Bell) called me up and explained they were determined not to build a brand new museum but they wanted to do an adaptive reuse, I thought it sounded so exciting,” Lin said in an earlier interview with Postmedia.

Maya Lin received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2016. Photo, Andrew Harnik Photo by Pete Souza /The White House

The terrace will include a pavilion, event spaces, sculptures and gardens and an oculus and skylight. The terrace will be a part of the redesigned Glenbow Museum, which is currently undergoing a $205-million renovation. The terrace will be in one the final stages of the project and is expected to be done in 2025. The Glenbow is scheduled to reopen to the public in 2026.

Lin’s design will draw inspiration from the Prairies. This is her first project in Canada.

“The landscape on the roof, that which is not a public terrace for art and people, will be all native grasslands,” Lin says.

She said she was also inspired by the overall design of the reimagined Glenbow, which is led by Calgary’s DIALOG.

“I really responded to DIALOG’s facade, with the concrete, thin panels that are slightly organic in nature,” she says. “That design has directly inspired the pavilion design.”

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Lin first gained prominence in 1981 at the age of 21 when she was selected to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. It has become known as “The Wall” and quickly became a new standard for memorial design.

Lin received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2016. She was recently commissioned to build a water garden for the Obama Presidential Center, which is opening in 2025. In a career that has spanned decades, she has worked in architecture, public art, sculpture, landscape and memorials, which she calls “Memory Works.” The Glenbow project will blend a number of her disciplines.

“It’s design, architecture, landscape — all integrated,” she says. “The (pavilion) roof is very sculptural. This one is a cohesive merger of the different aspects of my work.”

“In architecture, I’m trying to frame and create spaces. So when you are creating a garden that will be there for other art works that might be rotated in, might be permanent, my personality quiets down a lot. That might be why the most sculptural aspects of the work I’ve chosen to put on the roof of the pavilion. Because I involve art work as well as architectural work, I know it’s.a very different relationship when you are actually responding and relating to a really strong architectural (design.)”

Lin said she was also attracted to the project by Bell, who she has worked with before when he was curator of the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery. Over the years, Lin’s work has had an environmental bent. In 2021, she created Ghost Forest, which placed 49 Atlantic white cedar trees, which were damaged by salt water inundation due to climate change, to Madison Square Park in downtown Manhattan. At Renwick, she used 54,000 marbles for an installation called Folding The Chesapeake, a model of Chesapeake Bay.

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