Location: Wembley, AB
Client: County of Grande Prairie
Size: 40,020 sq. ft.
Project Value: $26 Million
Architect: Architecture | Tkalcic Bengert – Architect of Record, working in association with Design Architect – Teeple Architects Inc.
Completed: 2014

The Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum is located in Wembley Alberta (approximately 30 km outside of Grande Prairie) on a rolling rural site in Alberta’s Peace Country, near the internationally significant Pipestone Creek bone bed—the fifth largest dinosaur bone bed in the world. The LEED® Silver targeted, $26 million facility is to be one of the world’s foremost museums of palaeontology, attracting both international researchers and tourists alike and is unique in that it brings that traditionally back-of-house work of researchers and paleontologists into the public experience.

Completed in 2014, the design creates a coordinated narrative experience of architecture and exhibits. The museum sequence tells the story of the bone-bed, the work of scientists to understand it and the results of their work; the image of the ancient earth that they have created, including displaying the Pachyrhinosaurus Lakustai—a new dinosaur species found only at the Pipestone Creek site. The project incorporates an indoor bone bed that imitates the actual bone bed where the discoveries were made and will allow visitors to participate in their own digging and discovery. The design also includes a historic chronological pathway through to the Devonian Age, when the Pipestone Creek Bed developed.

The 40,020 sq. ft. building is carved into a gentle hill with two massive concrete retaining walls pushing the earth aside to create the main gallery floor, referencing the act of excavating the earth to expose fossils. The heavy timber roof undulates like a giant ad-hoc shelter protecting the excavation site. While its primary intention is to emphasize the significance of the Pipestone Creek discovery and the seriousness of the scientific research that the museum undertakes, the architecture remains independently expressive and engaging. The programmatic solution was to create a building backdrop for the display of the dinosaurs including a working laboratory, a timeline walk illustrating the geology of the area, administrative offices, shops and classroom spaces.

In association with Teeple Architects Inc, the vision was to develop a large volume space that concentrated on the use of local materials; the area has significant wood product production, using large timbers as the structural support, almost skeleton-like, for a metal roof canopy that folds from roof to walls and is enclosed by large fenestration allowing views from both the inside of the facility and to the outside of the facility. Unique interactive wireless displays and lighting have been incorporated into the final design. The museum also houses a gift shop, restaurant and teaching classrooms for student interaction.

Photos by Tom Arban Photography