Rafael Viñoly Architects’ design for the new East Wing forms part of an impressive seven year expansion and renovation project aimed at highlighting the original building as a 'jewel' set within a continuous ring of expansion space. The 139,200 sq ft East Wing connects CMA’s original 1916 Beaux-Arts building by local architects Hubbell & Benes and the 1971 addition by Marcel Breuer, creating spectacular new spaces for the presentation and conservation of one of the leading encyclopaedic art collections in the United States.
Viñoly's renovation plan was devised to revive the original design principles of the museum and involves renovating and in some cases demolishing several subsequent additions which have presented a 'disjointed and confusing warren of spaces'. The Breuer building is being renovated in this process but further demolished buildings will make way for a vast, indoor, sunlit piazza, topped by a gently curving canopy of glass and steel, around which the entire museum will be organized and create a natural meeting place and event space for large functions.
The stone cladding of the new gallery wings consists of alternate bands of granite and marble that modulate the two very different aesthetics of the 1916 and Breuer buildings. In this manner, the distinctions between “modern” and “historic” are preserved, yet integrated into a cohesive whole.
Double-height special exhibitions galleries and an entrance lobby, located on the Lower Level, serve as the centrepiece of the two-story East Wing, while new galleries for the museum’s existing collections are located on Level Two. The new wing also houses expanded offices and workrooms for the conservation department on Level One.
A two-phase construction process for the rest of the works accommodates the museum’s fundraising schedule and allows continued operation (on a reduced basis) while the project is underway. The project is set for completion in 2012.