The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston is celebrating the opening of its new wing and restored palace this week, which were designed by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop. The new 70,000-square-foot addition will help alleviate pressures placed on the historic 1902 building and provide additional space for expansion and more events and exhibitions. Characterized by natural light and simplicity in design, Renzo Piano's expansion is a tool for the rehabilitated museum. The project incorporated many sustainable building strategies beyond the use of natural light and it's currently seeking LEED Gold certification.
“This new wing is an extraordinarily elegant workshop, a bustling counterpoint to the historic building’s serenity. Here, the thinking and the work of the Museum is performed, so that the Palace, which had been put to uses for which it was not equipped, can once again give visitors the experience Isabella Stewart Gardner intended: a personal confrontation with art,” said Anne Hawley, Norma Jean Calderwood Director of the Museum.
Rather than add on or manipulate the existing museum, Renzo Piano and his team designed a set of facilities that would complement the historic palace and be placed off to the side. The expansion features four volumes clad in green pre-patinated copper and red brick that appear to “float” above the transparent first floor. Inside the new wing there is a cube-shaped performance hall, a special exhibitions gallery, a new restaurant, a gift shop, a landscape classroom, expanded outdoor garden spaces, two artist apartments, conservation labs, and a hands on art workshop.
Glass facades and skylights dominate the new facilities, which serve as a light and functional space compared to the heavy historic museum. The new wing frees up the historic building to fulfill its purpose as Isabella Gardner intended. Engineers from Buro Happold collaborated with Renzo Piano on the expansion, which is seeking LEED Gold certification. Buro Happold helped with many of the sustainability features, like a geothermal well system, daylight harvesting, water efficient landscaping techniques, and the use of local and regional materials. Significant rehabilitation of the existing palace was also completed, including structural stability enhancements, a new high performance skylight over the courtyard and new advanced lighting. The official ribbon cutting ceremony takes place on January 19th when it will be opened to the public.
Images ©Nic Lehoux courtesy of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum