Donald Schmitt, a partner at Diamond Schmitt, said the company was

Donald Schmitt, a partner at Diamond Schmitt, said the company was “thrilled” to have been awarded the contract for the New Brunswick Museum’s new building. (Jim Ryce – photo credit)

Toronto-based architecture firm Diamond Schmitt is preparing for its first team meeting with board members and staff at the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John next week.

Museum officials announced this week that the company has won the planning and design contract for a new museum building.

“We’re thrilled,” said Donald Schmitt, founding partner of the 48-year-old company, which has won multiple Governor General Awards and was recently involved in a major renovation of Ottawa’s National Arts Center.

“The opportunity to develop a new museum for New Brunswick is super exciting,” said Schmitt, who envisions the new building as a “place for storytelling” and a “crossroads for community” that captures the history and diversity of the province .

“It has to be a landmark – legible, visible, accessible” to attract people from the city, the province and beyond, he said.

Diamond Schmitt

Diamond Schmitt

The museum’s exhibition center in Market Square was permanently closed to the public last fall, and all of its collections are housed in a brick building on Lancaster Ave.

Employees and the board have identified a number of elements to be integrated into the new museum.

It will have around 160,000 square meters of space for exhibitions, workshops, collections, public programs and events.

There’s not much design work that can be done until a site is selected, Schmitt acknowledged, and the timeline for opening through early 2026 is “pretty tight.”

His company will analyze the pros and cons of two possible locations. One of them stands where the old museum building stands on Douglas Avenue. It has a number of “complexities,” Schmitt said.

It is at the top of a bank, has a provincial park on one side and “other restrictions” on the other.

Another possible location has not been announced.

Submitted by Diamond Schmitt/doublespace photography

Submitted by Diamond Schmitt/doublespace photography

According to the architect, one of the requirements was sufficient space for museum loading ramps and busloads of students.

Other traits he is looking for are more aesthetic.

“I think given Saint John’s incredible geology and topography, it would be really awesome to have a site that could capture and have line of sight to some of the great bodies of water and great topography that weaves through the city.”

He wants the building to “connect with the landscape” and be able to reflect the region’s many layers of history and heritage.

The call for proposals didn’t list an obvious call for indigenous advice, but Schmitt said it was one of the interview questions before his company got the job.

“We’re very interested in that,” he said.

Diamond Schmitt plans to work with the museum’s board and staff to reach out to Indigenous communities and “weave indigenous knowledge pathways and insights into the process.”

Schmitt wishes to meet with the public several times in Saint John, and possibly elsewhere in the province, to gather ideas that can influence architectural design. He hopes to hold the first ward council meeting before the summer.

Submitted by Diamond Schmitt/Tom Arban

Submitted by Diamond Schmitt/Tom Arban

Diamond Schmitt will be responsible for hiring a number of additional engineers and specialist consultants. The company already has many connections in the province, he said, including with EXP.

They work together at the Atlantic Science Enterprise Center in Moncton and the new Performing Arts Center in Fredericton.

Meeting the project schedule will require “a lot of collaboration, a lot of teamwork and a lot of focus,” Schmitt said, “but I think it’s very doable.”

The National Arts Center project was of a similar scope and a similarly “aggressive” schedule.

Other “major cultural projects” undertaken by Diamond Schmitt include a major transformation of Lincoln Center’s concert hall for the New York Philharmonic, L’Orchestre Symphonique in Montreal, and the Four Seasons Performing Arts Center in Toronto.


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