Art Gallery of Alberta

Contrarian Micro Textures

With a free-form ribbon of stainless steel weaving its way throughout the design, a recent addition to the Art Gallery of Alberta is itself a work of art. The 87,000 sq. ft. addition was designed by Randall Stout Architects, Los Angeles and, according to the architect, reinvents the museum’s public spaces. Known by many as the Aurora Borealis, the captivating metal ribbon was created using Contrarian Metal Resources’ non-directional, low-gloss, uniformly textured InvariMatte®-finish stainless steel.

“The stainless steel has a finish that reflects color and light in a highly diffused manner," says Stout on his firm's website. "Whereas a smooth or polished stainless steel would shed unwanted visual glare and heat reflections, the finish on the borealis creates visual highlights without glare. The larger borealis surfaces reflect colors through gentle transitions that exist at the reciprocating angle of the line of sight. That is to say it behaves like a mirror, but with very “fuzzy” reflections. At some angles of view, one can see soft blues in the metal of a blue sky overhead. In the early morning and when viewed from the east some surfaces reflect back the warm, yellow morning light. During the evening the same effect can be seen from the west with the more orange and reddish tones of sunset softly appearing in the metal. At night time, the exterior stainless steel predominantly reflects the dark night sky allowing the white interior surfaces of the Borealis to become dynamic, welcoming illumination of architectural elements.”

The undulating ribbon was fabricated by A. Zahner, Kansas City, MO. Zahner’s Hunter™ Pre-weathered Zinc, which resembles slate or limestone, was used throughout the interior and exterior of the building on flat and geometric surfaces. Flynn of Canada handled the installation.

The public is guided to entry points for the galleries, gathering spaces and event areas by the stainless steel ribbon as it shows visitors the way to their area of interest. The galleries are more traditional in shape which offers maximum flexibility for exhibitions, programs and shows.

In January Contrarian Metal Resources was honored with Metal Construction Association’s President Award for Overall Excellence for the Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton. "We are honored to have our InvariMatte stainless steel featured on this outstanding project. Randall Stout's creativity combined with expert fabrication and engineering on the part of A. Zahner Company add significance to our participation," Halliday explained when accepting the award. “While our participation on the project should be recognition enough, we are humbled that the MCA has honored us with the President's Award for Overall Excellence,” he added.

Approximately 30,000 sq. ft. of the new construction is exhibition space. Also added during the expansion was direct access to Edmonton's underground light rail system and public walkway, via the main lobby. The museum's original structure was completed in the 1960s. The addition opened in 2009.

About Contrarian Micro Textures

Rigidized-logoContrarian Micro Textures by Rigidized Metals, formerly Contrarian Metal Resources, is a micro-textured line of high-performance architectural metals including stainless steel and titanium. For more information, visit

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