WAN Awards 2018

MONDAY 28 MAY 2018

WAN Jobs
News Review
WAN Urban Challenge
WAN Awards
Previous Next

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, United States

Monday 16 Jan 2012

Gardner Museum spreads its wings

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum by Renzo Piano Building Workshop in Boston, United States
© Nic Lehoux / Renzo Piano Building Workshop 
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum by Renzo Piano Building Workshop in Boston, United States Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum by Renzo Piano Building Workshop in Boston, United States Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum by Renzo Piano Building Workshop in Boston, United States Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum by Renzo Piano Building Workshop in Boston, United States Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum by Renzo Piano Building Workshop in Boston, United States Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum by Renzo Piano Building Workshop in Boston, United States
Your comments on this project

No. of Comments: 3

Add comments | More comments

19/01/12 DavWo, Auckland, NZ
Where are the people "straining to see and hear the musical performance"?
17/01/12 Chris Chu, AIA, Newton
I have had the privilege to see it in person during construction and it is clean in form and materials, pure and poetic, both inside and out, and yet "modest" (though obviously quite costly). Inspiring.
17/01/12 Alex, NY
I see some elegant features but no attention to light or acoustic quality in day or night. These images speak to another concept not well tuned to a program or well developed. We need better value from such projects. Architecture is not a concept but a complete building well thought out throughout. The attractive image of people straining to see and hear the musical performance is a stunning example of a building not designed to a program.
Click for more ...

A transparent addition sheds new light on a much-loved museum 

When the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum decided to embark on a two year $180m expansion project of its prized palazzo building to relieve it from the pressure of years of misappropriated programs, the Italian architect Renzo Piano was among those it considered to help them with the project. But Piano was busy at the time and he removed himself from consideration. It was also the case that the architect did not compete for commissions but rather was handed them.

Paraphrasing the dialogue that went on between the Museum leadership and Piano, Matt Montgomery the Gardner’s Communication Director, said: “Piano told us ‘you either want me or you don’t’.” At the prodding of Ray Nasher, a Bostonian and the Founder of the Nasher Sculpture Center, a Piano-designed museum, the Gardner abandoned its process and its short-list and hired Piano for the job. Judging from the first look at the museum’s new wing last week, it should be glad it did.

While many architects would be up to task of expanding the much loved treasure house, Piano brought to the Gardner something very special; the ability to forge a rich dialogue between the two buildings by playing up their opposites. Connected by a 50ft glass-enclosed walkway, the addition serves as a counterpoint to the landmark museum building.

While the original palace building, which was built in 1903 and is modeled on a 15th century Venetian palazzo, is solid and firmly rooted in the land, Piano’s addition, which is clad in glass and pre-patinated copper, is light and airy and floats above the ground plane. The constant interplay between the two structures is an artful dance that Piano has orchestrated into pure theatre. Visitors to the new wing will be ever conscious of the original museum building as they will be able to see glimpses of it from most every room, thus heightening the anticipation.

While the original entrance to the palace building has changed, much to the chagrin of some, and has been relocated to the new wing, it provides a ‘living room’ equipped with a library of books that offers visitors a more hospitable sense of arrival and a place to relax prior to and after visiting the galleries.

The new programs have been accommodated adeptly with a great deal of flexibility that will allow the museum to adapt to future needs. A new 40ft x 40ft x 40ft performance space provides a tight yet improved space for music than the museum had before and a new gallery, which is on axis to the Palace’s celebrated Tapestry Room, has a flexible ceiling that can be raised or lowered to a height of 48ft, 36ft or 24ft. depending on the type of art accommodated. Uniting these pieces is a transparent stairwell.

It’s hard not to like Piano who exudes endless grace and a boyish charm. He is generous in his credit of others, like when he asks to ‘Please credit ‘Mucci’’ (Emanuela Baglietto the Senior Partner in Charge of the project) adding that ‘It’s a workshop and not just me’ and he is humble when he says things like ‘I could never design furniture. Designing a chair is the most difficult thing to do’. Still and all, Piano knows how to make ‘magic’ as he calls it.

For the Gardner, he went through scores of material before finally settling on pre-patinated copper and glass. “When we said copper is the right material…the bell finally rings. Sometimes it’s like waiting in the dark. You just wait and it comes to you.”

Getting it right is an obsession for Piano. “If you are a good pianist you know how much energy to put in the fingers or else poetry doesn’t come out.” At the Gardner there is enough poetry to the fill its rooms for generations to come.

Sharon McHugh
US Correspondent

Key Facts

Status Completed
Value 0(m€)
Renzo Piano Building Workshop

More projects by this architect

Jerome L. Greene Science Centre

565 Broome SoHo

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Culture Centre

Paddington development

Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé

Renzo Piano condominium tower

Paddington Tower

GES2 power station conversion

Whitney Museum of American Art

Harvard Art Museums

Kimbell Art Museum

Botin Centre

MUSE - Museo delle Scienze


Visitors Center at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center

Harvard Art Museums Expansion

The Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute

The View From The Shard

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

Icon Project, Tjuvholmen development

The Shard of Glass

The Shard

The Shard

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Movie Museum

Landmark Tower

Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut Expansion

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center

The Shard

Whitney Museum

The Shard

Resnick Pavilion, LACMA

The Kimbell Art Museum

Whitney Museum

Central Saint Giles

Valetta City Gate

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum extension

The Shard

Central Saint Giles

Art Institute of Chicago Modern Wing

The Modern Wing, Art Institute of Chicago

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center

Addition to the Kimbell Art Museum

Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion

California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park

The Parco della Musica

EUR Towers

Whitney Museum of American Art

L &G and Mitsubishi Estate Company Building

Pacific Dawn

London Bridge Tower

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Reinventing Cities

Click here to view the NEWS IN PICTURES tablet site