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Old New England New
Ann Beha Architects' Shelburne Museum expansion brings a contemporary expression to its historic setting.
Peter Vanderwarker

Amid the quintessential 18th and 19th century New England buildings spread across the Shelburne Museum’s rolling campus stands the Pizzagalli Center for Art and Education, a new structure designed by Ann Beha Architects to house year-round exhibitions and programming. Situated near the entrance, the center, which opened to the public on August 18, will serve as a gateway to the museum’s 45-acre property.

“The building is all about engaging and orienting visitors,” said principal architect Thomas M. Hotaling. “It is the visitors very first step to the enjoyment and exploration of the campus.”

Ann Beha Architects, a firm known for its thoughtful historic preservation work, sought to create a modern design that subtly plays off the existing vocabulary of the museum’s traditional architecture. On one side, the building features 5,000 square feet of flexible gallery space, which leads into an airy glass lobby that connects to a 130-seat auditorium for performances and lectures with classrooms located right below on the lower level.


The firm used a palette of locally sourced materials consisting of copper, cedar, and slate, to be in keeping with the texture and feel of the center’s historic counterparts. “And this was to create or craft a building that is at home in the setting of traditional buildings, but at the same time is fresh, contemporary, and welcoming in spirit,” said Hotaling.

Hotaling said one of the initial challenges was determining the right location for the building. After considering half a dozen options, the firm and museum officials decided that the building needed to be situated in a place where it commands a presence on the side facing route 7, the main artery through Vermont, while also maintaining a relationship with the rest of the campus.



This will be the museum’s first and only building to be open all year long. “From the museum’s inception, founder Electra Havemeyer Webb envisioned a year-round role for Shelburne Museum. She also viewed Shelburne as a resource for all Vermonters,” said Thomas Denenberg, the Museum’s Director in a statement.

The building also meets LEED standards and features LED lighting and climate control technologies  among other sustainable features. “We really wanted a building that was of its time but took its cue from the other buildings around it,” said Hotaling.

Nicole Anderson