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Pianoforte in Fort Worth


by Jerome Weeks 18 Nov 2008

The Kimbell Art Museum (center) is adding a new building (center left). The Modern Art Museum is in the upper right. The KERA radio story: The expanded online story: North Texas is getting a Piano duet. Renzo Piano, the celebrated architect of the Nasher Sculpture Garden in Dallas, is designing a new $70 million addition […]

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The Kimbell Art Museum (center) is adding a new building (center left). The Modern Art Museum is in the upper right.

  • The KERA radio story:
  • The expanded online story:

North Texas is getting a Piano duet.

Renzo Piano, the celebrated architect of the Nasher Sculpture Garden in Dallas, is designing a new $70 million addition for the Kimbell Art Museum in Forth Worth. His preliminary sketches, section drawings and site plans were released today at a press conference.

The Kimbell opened in 1972, and is considered one of architect Louis Kahn’s masterpieces. But the museum has not had enough space to display touring exhibitions and its own collection at the same time. When the Kimbell announced expansion plans in 1989, however, they were met by protests from architects, art historians and even Kahn’s widow.

Renzo Piano

Piano’s expansion will add some 90,000 square feet to the Kimbell’s current 120,000 – including space for a library and a larger auditorium. Perhaps more signifcantly, the addition will also reconfigure the way visitors enter the museum by adding underground parking. Today, people enter the Kimbell through the back of the building (because of the parking across the street) instead of through the west side, as Kahn intended. In the future, they will rise up “from the dark,” as Piano said at the press conference, and enter a glassed entrance — facing Kahn’s reflecting pools and grove of trees along the west side entrance of the Kimbell.

But to do all that, Piano has located his expansion on the west side lawn, which many in Fort Worth value for its park-like pleasures. Piano worked as an intern in Louis Kahn’s office and has become internationally famous for his museum designs. He said that he located his addition at the right distance for the two buildings to have a “dialogue.” And he insisted he would not move it. There should be enough lawn to enjoy.

PIANO: “I think that’s a great location. And I hope people will understand, everybody in town, even Frisbee lover. We love Frisbee. But we also love art.”

Cross-section of the Kimbell (right) and the Piano addition

Although the preliminary sketches don’t offer much detail about the proposed building, the Kimbell’s press release states: “Mr. Piano’s new building subtly mirrors the Kahn building in height and scale and in the span of the façade, as well as in its tripartite plan and use of travertine and concrete as primary materials. From its glazed front, which faces Kahn’s stately stone-clad portico, the roof of the addition gently recedes under a berm at the rear.”

The berm is also one of the addition’s environmentally sensitive features — it will help cool the structure, while solar light cells will help power it. The museum aims to be “carbon neutral.” The ground breaking is scheduled for 2010; the opening for 2012.

The Kimbell’s expansion stats:

Cost: $70 million

Size: total space for new building, approx. 90,000 sq. ft.

total space for Kahn building, 120,000 sq. ft.

Design features: Two-level building with three bays.

Upper level: The south bay will house galleries, the middle  bay will be the entrance lobby and the north bay will include education studios, library and offices

Lower level: The south bay will contain mechanical systems, the middle, the auditorium and lobby and the north will be the library stacks.

A louvered roof system with photo-voltaic cells is in the experimental stage. The cantilevered roof will shield the building’s glass front and interior (see the Winspear Opera House’s solar canopy).

Image of Renzo Piano from archinect.com

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