The city of North Vancouver has always been a bit of a second sibling to Vancouver. As vancouverism made Canada's third largest city an international urbanists' darling, the potential of the city on its North Shore was often overlooked.

But thanks to recent public commissions like architect Michael Green's new city hall and the relative to Vancouver cheaper real estate prices, North Vancouver is morphing from sleepy bedroom community to would-be Brooklyn.

This week's groundbreaking ceremony for the long awaited new home for Presentation House Gallery (renamed Polygon Gallery in a nod to its lead donor), Canada's largest non profit independent photography gallery, speaks to North Vancouver's ongoing renaissance.

The first public art gallery to be built in the Vancouver area in decades, the Polygon is designed by Patkau Architects, also responsible for the Audain Gallery in Whistler, B.C.

The site, in the burgeoning new Shipyards district, is former industrial land converted into commercial and retail use, as well as public plazas and waterfront walkways.

The architects pay homage to the roots of the area with a saw tooth motif, perforated metal cladding and industrial style ceilings. But a sleek urban oculus – a south facing retractable glass wall that opens onto a recessed balcony – offers both a view of the harbour and a steely gaze back across the bay to Vancouver, reminding the city that there's a new kid on the shore. 

A ground floor of transparent glass will encourage connection to the surrounding public space and will make the cantilevered second floor exhibition area appear to float above it.

Gallery staff are thrilled to have a new 23,000 sq ft facility under construction. Its purpose built galleries (illuminated by those saw tooth skylights) will be able to accommodate both the large format work of renowned Vancouver School photo conceptualists like Jeff Wall and Rodney Graham, as well as the gallery's ongoing penchant for a wide range of international artists from Andy Warhol to Ansel Adams.

Plans for extending the gallery's reach into large public plazas will offer interactive exhibition opportunities and help create a welcoming gateway into the city of North Vancouver.