The landscape itself is sited on the museum’s former bus parking lot, and will be designed by Cambridge, MA-based landscape architects Reed Hilderbrand. “The campus didn’t have a town green,” Phifer said. “It became clear to us that we wanted to create a building in a garden.” The design of the new wing features a more than 170-foot-long column-free “porch,” offering expansive views out to the newly wooded grounds.
Inside, a series of galleries with curved walls departs from the rectilinear nature of the exterior. Most of the works will be placed or hung independent of the walls, so the architects were able to deviate from the conventions of white box galleries. The amorphous form is meant to evoke a cloud. The fluid spaces will also encourage more circulation around the objects. Perhaps the most innovative aspect of the interior is the ceiling, which allows dappled natural light to illuminate the objects from above: the optimum light condition for glass. Four-foot-by-three-and-a-half-inch-thick concrete beams, resting on the curved gallery walls, diffuse the light. The ceiling ranges from completely transparent, to translucent, to opaque in a randomized pattern.
Phifer and Partners is also renovating an existing building into a new hot shop and auditorium. The project is scheduled for completion in 2014.