Page C1.2 . 17 September 2008                     
ArchitectureWeek - Culture Department
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    Currier Museum of Art


    "The new entrance and Winter Garden extend an axis of public spaces centered on the original two-story interior court," continues Hawkes, "punctuated by glimpses of art as well as views into public spaces and the city beyond."

    The architects also designed renovations for 40,000 square feet (3,700 square meters) of existing space. The project scope encompasses two city blocks, with outdoor space for sculpture and events.

    New Space for the Currier

    Originally known as the Currier Gallery of Art, the museum opened in 1929 in a building designed by Tilton and Githens that is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Two pavilions by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer were added in 1982.

    The Currier exhibits European and American art from the late Middle Ages to the present, ranging from painting, photographs, and sculpture to furniture, silver, glass, and textiles. It features works by Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Andrew Wyeth.

    The museum "collection" also includes the Isadore J. and Lucille Zimmerman House (1950) by Frank Lloyd Wright.

    A goal of increased capacity for art display and visitor accommodation prompted the more recent expansion, according to museum director Susan Strickler. "We knew the quality of the collections deserved a wider audience and a wider cross-section of the state," she says.

    Ann Beha Architects approached the project with substantial experience in the arts sector and with historic buildings, including major projects at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts in Michigan, Portland Museum of Art in Maine, and Portland Art Museum in Oregon. The firm also served as preservation architect on the recent adaptive reuse of Boston's Charles Street Jail (1851) for the Liberty Hotel.

    Respectful Details

    The newest structures take cues from their conjoined predecessors.

    The south addition is clad in glass and honed brown terra cotta tiles, chosen to harmonize with the limestone of the original building and the buff brick of the 1980s pavilions. Tiles are grouped into panels that match the proportions of the original windows. Panels of black Italian basalt with a chiseled finish punctuate the exterior.

    Stone details of the original building facade have been reinterpreted in contemporary materials on the new addition facing Manchester. A new zinc-sheathed cornice aligns with the existing frieze. Continuing where the traditional granite base leaves off is a glazed clerestory that transmits light to lower-level offices and the auditorium. Porticos on the north and south ends are constructed of zinc, aluminum, and fritted glass, and recall the proportions of the entrance portico.

    Inside the museum, cherry paneling and dark basalt provide rich warmth while recalling the Art Deco details of the original building. Skylights and large walls of glass transmit light to brighten public spaces, while artwork remains protected.

    Enter North

    Visitors approach the museum on its north side, through a drop-off court featuring the towering sculpture Origins by Mark di Suvero.

    Behind an all-glass facade that connects the 1980s additions lies the lobby, ticketing area, expanded museum shop, and visitor services. The lobby includes waiting areas for groups assembling to tour the Zimmerman House. Porticos on either side of the lobby, part of the 1982 additions, offer views into the permanent collection galleries.

    Southern Light

    On the south side of the 1929 building, three new galleries enclose a spacious, skylit "winter garden," offering a year-round central gathering space for special events, informal community programs, and a new cafe.

    The focal point of this space is the museum's original front facade and grand entry. When the building's main entrance was shifted to the north side as part of the 1982 expansion, the grand entry's columns, doors, and Salvatore Lascari mosaics lost their prominence. The new covered courtyard allows visitors to once again enjoy these features.

    A large pair of commissioned murals inspired by the mosaics — Wall Drawing #1255: Whirls and twirls by Sol LeWitt — decorate the room's south wall, facing the former entry. From the winter garden, a staircase leads down to a new classrooms, administrative offices, and the 180-seat auditorium on the lower level.

    The new galleries surrounding the winter garden enable to museum to display 50 percent more of its collections. The south gallery, designed for sculpture and other collections not sensitive to light, provides a rare opportunity to reveal the museum's collections to passersby through large expanses of glass, as well as offering views toward town from the inside.

    Galleries to the east and west provide the precise climate control required for traveling exhibits, something not possible in the original building or later additions. The spaces are scaled to match galleries in the historic building. A new loading area and freight elevator facilitate delivery and setup for special exhibits.

    The Currier's capacity for art and visitors has thus been expanded, with an eye to the future and respect for the past.

    Discuss this article in the Architecture Forum...

    Nancy Novitski is an associate editor for ArchitectureWeek.

    Project Credits

    Architect: Ann Beha Architects
    Owner: The Currier Museum of Art
    Contractor: Harvey Construction Corporation
    Structural Engineer: LeMessurier Consultants
    Mechanical Engineer: Exergen Corporation
    Electrical, Fire Protection & Plumbing Engineer: Rist-Frost-Shumway Engineering, P.C.
    Landscape Architect: Richard Burck Associates, Inc.
    Geotechnical Engineer: Miller Engineering & Testing Inc.
    Specifications Consultant: Wil-Spec Architectural Specifications
    Lighting Designer: Hefferan Partnership Lighting Design
    Acoustician: Acentech, Inc.
    Code Consultant: Hughes Associates, Inc.
    Graphic Designer: Wojciechowski Design
    Exhibit Designer: Clifford LaFontaine, Inc.
    Photographer: Jonathan Hillyer Photography, Inc.


    ArchWeek Image

    The massing of the Currier Museum's new southern galleries echoes the relationship of two 1980s pavilions to the original building.
    Photo: © Jonathan Hillyer Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    The Currier Museum's expanded form includes significantly more exhibit space.
    Photo: © Jonathan Hillyer Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    The expanded lobby includes a gift shop and seating areas.
    Photo: © Jonathan Hillyer Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Currier Museum of Art site plan drawing.
    Image: Ann Beha Architects Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Some interior wall finishes echo the original building's stone exterior.
    Photo: © Jonathan Hillyer Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    A gallery space at the Currier Museum of Art.
    Photo: © Jonathan Hillyer Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    A new 180-seat auditorium was added to the Currier Museum on the lower level.
    Photo: © Jonathan Hillyer Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    The Currier Museum addition includes dedicated classroom space.
    Photo: © Jonathan Hillyer Extra Large Image


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