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Overcoming Challenges National Gallery of Canada Project

by | Jul 6, 2023

RoseSun Motor’s Expertise Benefits National Gallery of Canada Renovation

When The National Gallery of Canada secured RoseSun Motors to modernize the motorized shades in The Great Hall, it was immediately apparent that this task would present extraordinary engineering challenges. The Great Hall is a hallmark in architecture, with multiple arrays of what architect Safdie called “Platonic geometries.”

The impressive architecture includes shades that span more than 3 stories in height, combined with 80 motorized fabric sails that align with the apex of the structure.

Challenge #1 – Motorization

Although extremely innovative at the time, the 20-year-old motorized system was built utilizing counterweights, pulleys and cables. RoseSun was assigned the task of devising a more efficient ambulatory system; including the daunting task of ensuring that any plastic components were replaced with longer-life metallic counterparts.

RoseSun Motor’s engineers spent countless hours devising a viable motorized solution. In the end, they were satisfied that they had built a system that would:

Quietly and efficiently operate each tier.

Distribute fabric without complaint or stalls.

Provide longevity of service.

Challenge #2 – Fabric Replacement

One of the qualities that set the National Gallery of Canada apart from other Galleries is architect Moshe Safdie’s original intent that top and bottom floor galleries be bathed in equally vibrant light. Upon its opening in 1988, Photographer Yousuf Karsh described this phenomenon during an interview with CBC’s David Gilmour: “The play of light. I am excited about it. It is almost a symphony. It is a celebration of light as you watch it from one moment to another…The light is so well balanced, it doesn’t edit the work of art we see.” RoseSun’s challenge was one of preserving that intent.

Twenty years ago, UV fabrics were nearly non-existent. Those that did exist were heavy and difficult to maneuver.

RoseSun Motors applied their years of experience regarding today’s lighter-weight fabrics with the artistic desires of the Gallery’s Renovation Team and decided upon a lightweight UV protective fabric that undoubtedly exceeds the original fabrics chosen for this purpose.

The next step was to remake each and every panel from the new materials; an exacting process that, when executed correctly, would preserve the design and scope of the building’s legacy.

Challenge #3 – Logistics

Construction has nearly as many symphonic components incorporated into its execution as does design. When accessing a structure’s bones, scaffolding, temporary elevators, and carefully-orchestrated teamwork are imperative. But in the case of an art gallery, there are also other considerations, such as maintaining humidity and air pressure.

In an effort to keep abreast of all the unforeseen issues that occur on a project of this scope, Rose Sun assigned a crew to remain on sight for the duration of the project. Carefully-scheduled deliveries, crew assignments, and safety measures were written into each day’s requisite achievements. Consultations remained ongoing with building code experts, the Gallery’s renovation team, and other construction crews that were on sight to complete the goals of window and roof replacement.

One can never promise that any construction project will proceed without a hitch – in fact, surmounting daily challenges is what makes a good team even better. We are extremely proud of the efforts of our construction team during this endeavor.


Immense projects such as these are labor-intensive, but rewarding. From an engineering standpoint, finding resolution for motorized dilemmas; ensuring the smooth operation of each and every panel; and incorporating the finest materials available for both motors and shades is a fulfilling achievement.

But it is equally gratifying to recognize our team of construction experts who deserve accolades for their careful implementation of scheduling, safety, and completion of this large-scale project. We appreciate your attention to detail on not only this enterprise, but in the homes of all our customers.

At the end of a project such as this, the observer should feel as if the results were effortless. The natural flow and ebb of life must return to normal, and the unforeseen issues must disappear into a background of flawless execution. We at RoseSun are pleased to have been part of the National Gallery of Canada’s renovation and we hope we achieved our goal of simple, elegant function. We hope you enjoy your next visit to this amazing gallery, and we also hope you will consider our team for your future undertakings.