Coop Himmelb(l)au Art in Akron
A major addition, just opened, to the Akron Art Museum in Ohio, is the first public project in the United States by Vienna's Coop Himmelb(l)au.
The Austrian firm designed the new John S. and James L. Knight Building as a combination of intersecting irregular and rectilinear forms that grow from and extend around the existing museum building — an Italian Renaissance revival-style building originally built in the 1890s as a post office. The 63,300-square-foot (5,880-square-meter) steel-and-glass addition provides a sharp contrast in mass and form to its historic brick-and-limestone counterpart, but also embraces and engages the old building.
Three distinct architectural elements define the new museum building. The "Crystal" is a three-story glass lobby that serves as the main public entrance and connecting space. The "Gallery Box" is a large, flexible exhibit space, clad in aluminum panels, that comprises 7,300 square feet (680 square meters) for temporary exhibitions and 13,000 square feet (1,200 square meters) for permanent collection galleries. The "Roof Cloud" is a narrow, waferlike crown to the facility: a 327-foot- (100-meter-) long cantilevered steel armature that extends in four directions over both the new and old buildings, and over the adjacent street.
The new construction minimizes physical impact to the historic post office, a building listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Only a small part of one exterior wall was removed to link the two buildings.
Wolf D. Prix, one of the two cofounders of Coop Himmelb(l)au, served as principal-in-charge for the project, which received a 2005 American Architecture Award from the Chicago Athenaeum. The executive architect was Westlake Reed Leskosky of Cleveland. Westlake Reed Leskosky — then under the name of Dalton, van Dijk, Johnson & Partners — had also overseen the adaptation of the existing old post office building for the museum when it originally moved onto the site in 1981.
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Special thanks to Scott Moore for his photographic contributions.
Overview of the Akron Art Museum, including the newly opened John S. and James L. Knight Building.
Photo: David Valencic
The addition by Coop Himmelb(l)au adjoins the existing museum facility, housed in the historic Akron post office.
Photo: Scott Moore
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