Page D1.1 . 09 November 2005                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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Art Urbane

by Katharine Logan

The contemporary art museum increasingly shares responsibility for the well-being of its parent city, supporting tourism and its consequent revenue, and galvanizing local redevelopment.

So the Figge, a new museum by British firm David Chipperfield Architects, on the banks of the Mississippi River in Davenport, Iowa, not only envelopes its collections in a luminous and strictly orthogonal embrace, but it stands as a glowing emblem for the regeneration of Davenport's riverfront downtown.

The Figge Art Museum is Chipperfield's first civic commission in the United States. The firm — known for such projects as the River and Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames, United Kingdom, and the BBC Scotland Headquarters in Glasgow, and as winners of over 20 national and international competitions and awards — conducts its practice at many scales: from custom furniture to urban masterplanning.

For the Figge, David Chipperfield teamed with award-winning Des Moines, Iowa-based architects, Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck.

Catalyzing Urban Repair

Davenport has suffered ills common to many American cities in recent decades: the departure of residential and business communities from the urban core and the onset of decay. The fruit of a $46.9 million investment from both public and private donations, the 100,000-square-foot (9300-square-meter) Figge, sited front and center on the river, is expected to play a leading role in regional revitalization.

The museum begins the work of urban repair with its siting: reinforcing the city street grid by stepping into an empty block in a critical location, and building out to the street edge. Next, the museum addresses the riverscape; its simple volumes contribute a long, low form that gathers the city behind into a coherent massing.   >>>

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Figge Art Museum by British firm David Chipperfield Architects, in Davenport, Iowa.
Photo: © Timothy Hursley

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The Figge Art Museum, on the bank of the Mississippi River.
Photo: Ogy Blazevic/ © Figge Art Museum


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