Converting a Townhouse into the MCA

Building Ontario Street

The conversion of a town house into a welcoming gallery space was driven by the desire for something wide open and accessible.

We wanted to make it feel like a museum, so at the—we opened up that entry so that it looked welcoming. It wasn’t this sort of elitist place with a small secret door. It was a wide-open thing with a ramp going up, and then the glass doorway, so that you could see into the museum from the street. And then, as you walked in, there would be a little admission desk—very compact space—and then a bookstore was built immediately to the east, behind that wall.

It was a bookstore about 12 feet wide and 70 feet long. And you could go down and the sides were sort of zig-zagged so that we could get more shelf space, and you could look in, and you were drawn into it. And then after that, the bakery galleries, we cleaned it out as much as—there were a few columns that we had to incorporate into walls, but we cleaned it out into about a 12-foot-high space for the exhibits. And then on the facade, in front of the old townhouse, we built a staircase that was this sculptural staircase that people could go down to the basement, and then they could go up to the second floor, which went across the front, because there was no upper level on the bakery. So, it was a false front sort of thing. And then the stair continued up to the upper floor, which was also a gallery.

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