The expansion project, the third phase of a three part master plan, consists of the renovation of the 38,000 square foot 1974 Wing, a major addition of 50,000 square feet, and the associated site work related to a new main entrance, relocated sculpture garden, and related outdoor spaces. CMA’s vision is to foster a dynamic visitor experience built around a world-class collection, which places CMA at the vanguard of a new movement among art museums that focuses not only on art, but also on visitors and their experiences with art and with each other. The leadership of CMA has a strong vision of how their facilities need to be improved to better serve their mission and major priorities identified for the expansion project were:
Under the design leadership of DesignGroup principal Michael Bongiorno, AIA, the museum design team of Keoni Fleming, Joseph Mayer, and Annie Neumer has developed a bold and novel design strategy. DesignGroup asked provocative questions of CMA about both the relationship of the museum to contemporary culture and the museum’s physical relationship to the city and its citizens. From those questions, the design evolved out of our deep understanding of the particularities of the site, the imperatives of the programmatic relationships, and the redefinition of the museum’s relationship to its physical and social context. The building design, then, is a reflection of the museum’s ambition to be more visible, relevant, and connected to the community as a meeting point between art, the public and the physical city.
The building design concept is fairly simple: A long bar of gallery space on the east side of the site is separated from the Ross Building by a light filled concourse and entry forecourt that serves as the central organizing element of the project. The museum’s presence to the north and south is announced through “cinematic facades” that allow a dialogue between the museum interiors and the surrounding neighborhood. The entry forecourt is a gently sloping covered walk defined by, and accessing, the new sculpture garden to the West and a green space along Washington Avenue to the East. Semi-public program elements such as the retail store and café are strategically located with relation to outdoor spaces in order to provide the maximum amount of ground floor activation. The café is able to fully open itself to a terrace overlooking the sculpture garden by way of large folding glass wall panels. The new special event space, axially related to Derby Court, sits on the second floor overlooking the sculpture garden to the north. The sculpture garden is then accessed by stair from an outdoor terrace serving the special event space.
Experientially, the project was guided by the study of the poetics of light, by harnessing the power of simplicity and essentialism, and by defining the visitor experience as a cinematic procession. Strategically, there are five noted features of the building design planning:
The light-filled atrium, a dynamic multi-level concourse and lobby defined by natural light and city views, is a central organizing element that ties together historic galleries and new program spaces.
The Historic Jewel that is the Ross Building is set within the serene and minimalist architecture of the addition.