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The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, United States

Thursday 08 Jul 2010

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Gensler, Reed Hilderbrand and Tadao Audo collaborate on new art institute in Williamstown 

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, a public art museum and a center for research and higher education, has embarked on a two-phase campus plan. Integrated into the pastoral setting, the design includes extensive landscaping, scenic trails, and new buildings that expand the Institute’s galleries and facilities for public and academic programs.

The first phase of the expansion opened in June of 2008 and features a 32,000 sq ft facility that houses new, chapel-like galleries, a meeting and studio art classroom, and the Williamstown Art Conservation Center (WACC). The team worked closely with the WACC to identify programmatic needs and equipment requirements. Using technical expertise to navigate a complex program, the 12,000 sq ft conservation laboratories were woven into the rural context - a wooded hillside just south of the main campus. Large, north-facing windows bathe the art restoration areas in reflected, natural light.

The collaboration between Tadao Audo, Gensler and Reed Hilderbrand firms was intense. Hundreds of sketches were emailed between the U.S. and Japan, addressing all design aspects, ranging from the conceptual program layouts to the intricate details of the ground meeting the building.

To blend the new buildings into the surrounding landscape, the design incorporates a wood and steel structure and concrete retaining walls. The Clark challenged Mr. Ando to create a unique 'Clark concrete', and it was imperative that its execution meet the Japanese architect’s high standards. The team researched numerous products in order to determine the best formwork material for this concrete design, going so far as to mix concrete at home and pour custom samples, using a cloths dryer to vibrate the concrete. The completed Stone Hill Center is an exquisitely balanced composition: architecture and nature; function and form.

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