The redesign and expansion of the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock has moved one giant step closer to the finish line with the completion of its signature roof, a flowing concrete structure with pleated folds designed to funnel stormwater runoff into surrounding rain gardens. On track for a public opening date in May 2022, the 133,000-square-foot project was designed by Studio Gang architects in collaboration with landscape architecture firm SCAPE. In addition to a stormwater management plan, the eco-minded design includes adaptive reuse of the existing buildings’ most carbon-intensive elements, integration of native species into 11 acres of new landscape and the preservation of 90% of existing soils.
Located in downtown Little Rock’s historic MacArthur Park, the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts (AMFA) comprises several existing structures built between 1937 and 2000 that became gradually closed to the neighborhood over time. To better meet the needs of the museum’s growing audiences, Studio Gang reimagined AMFA as a “true museum in the park” and focused on strengthening connections to the surrounding neighborhoods and landscapes with the creation of a central axis that gently winds through the building like a plant stem from north to south.
Likened to a “flexible atrium,” the gently curving axis branches off to major programming areas, including exhibition, education and performance spaces. Larger public spaces bookend the “stem” with a lobby and a 5,000-square-foot, glass-enclosed social area at the north and a light-flooded atrium facing MacArthur Park in the south.
The new gathering spaces and glazed areas look out toward the city as well as the 11 acres of updated landscape that surround the museum. In addition to rain gardens and bioswales, the landscape includes 2,200 linear feet of added walking paths and trails, a mix of over 50 types of native plant species and dynamic “petal” gardens that echo the shape of the museum’s innovative, folded roof.
Images via Studio Gang