New York-based firm Tod Williams & Billie Tsien Architects are in the running for the renovation and expansion of the Kimball Art Center in Park City, UT. Their design is inspired by the surrounding alpine and mountainous landscape and attempts not to recreate it, but to capture its spirit through framed openings of the mountains and sky. Called the Box of Sky and Shadow, the simple concept recalls some of TWBTA's other projects around the country and features an influx of natural daylight, a copper clad exterior, energy efficient systems, and photovoltaics on the roof.
The renovation by TWBTA calls for an upgrade of the existing historic infrastructure and the expansion of the gallery and exhibition space. It also includes a new cafe, retail space, a catering kitchen, studios and flexible event space. Their design calls for new studio and education rooms on the basement and ground floor level with new gallery and exhibition space on the top floor. An outdoor roof deck and movie screening area serves as the focal point for the rooftop deck, which also enjoys vast and open views of the mountains and town.
The exterior of the building is clad in hand-glazed brick and the historic portion is sandblasted back to the original color. The top floor is covered in hand-hammered copper panels with punched openings that allow for protection and natural ventilation. At the corner, hovering over the entrance to the center, are two moveable panels that retract during pleasant weather or public events. During inclement weather, the panels move back into position to protect from wind and rain. Underneath the copper panels are white panels that can act as a projection screen for outdoor movies.
Daylight and views play a strong roll in the TWBTA’s design for the art center renovation. New, energy efficient windows replace existing glazing and in the new portion of the building glazings are oriented to capture views and sunlight. Interior lighting and mechanical systems are specifically designed to provide optimum conditions for art and events. Existing walls will be updated to ensure a high performing envelope with a tight, sealed exterior and additional insulation.
TWBTA has also included a number of energy efficient systems in order to reduce energy use. This includes the use of heat recovery, high efficiency chillers, and geothermal heat pumps. The roof’s design allows for the inclusion of a photovoltaic system to generate power for the building. In addition, the roof will also work to collect rainwater and snow melt and make use of gray water where appropriate.
Of all the designs for the renovation of the Kimball Art Center in Park City, UT, this one is the most disappointing.* Based on the previous work of TWBTA, expectations were much higher for an original and thoughtful design. Their Box of Sky and Shadow concept is essentially a regurgitation of the American Folk Art Museum, the Phoenix Art Museum and the David Logan Center for Performing Arts. While one can certainly appreciate the concept to capture views of the surrounding landscape, the rest of the design hardly reflects the character and community of the Park City area.
Internally, the programmatic layout has some merits and TWBTA doesn’t relegate the studio and education space to the basement levels like some of the other designs have though. By placing the studio and classrooms at ground level with windows to the street, those passing by are able to view one of the key functions of the center – art education. Flexible space and a large rooftop deck also provide a number of areas for events. The sustainability strategy is there in concept but doesn’t seem to be wholly thought through. In the end, TWBTA’s proposal seems as though it was hastily put together and a cut and paste collage of their other projects.
Images © TWBTA courtesy of the Kimball Art Center and © Bridgette Meinhold
* Bridgette Meinhold calls Park City, UT home and is intimately involved in the activities of the Kimball Art Center. She has watched the design competition closely since it first began and will continue to provide in-depth, first hand info on the project as it evolves.