On May 1, St. Louis’ Pulitzer Arts Foundation wrapped up a major renovation project by Tadao Ando that expanded the gallery space of its celebrated building by 3,500 square feet. Ando also designed the original building completed in 2001.
In its 14 years of existence, the Foundation has become known for its unique curatorial taste, often challenging preconceptions about art galleries. With an intention to curate an ever-changing collection, the museum does not display any permanent exhibitions except for two site-specific pieces by Richard Serra and Ellsworth Kelly.
As a result, the environment has become an integral part of the experience. Without overpowering the art itself, the building’s cast concrete holds an abundance of natural light. “The space becomes a unique vessel that allows the audience to focus on the artworks themselves,” said Emily Pulitzer, founder and chair of the Foundation.
Kristina Van Dyke, outgoing director of the Foundation, said the renovation is part of the Pulitzer’s continued effort to push for interdisciplinary initiatives. “One of the hallmarks of this building is its generosity. It’s a space that doesn’t privilege a particular point of view,” Van Dyke said. “That’s also part of what makes it so receptive to different kinds of art.”
To accommodate for the growth of the institution, the Foundation launched its renovation last September, consulting with Ando and his team, as well as local architectural firm Christner, who acted as the architects of record for both the original building and the renovation. The update expands the Pulitzer’s gallery space by half, and is the first major alteration to the building since its 2001 opening. With new public spaces and lower level galleries, the entire building now loops around the signature water court at the heart of the site, allowing for more flexibility in programming and spatial allocations.
The lower level galleries are darker than their natural light-soaked counterparts above. In a statement Ando said that his intention was to “design the new space on lower floors as a calm and serene space, compared to the dynamic and lively space on the upper floors.” Hardwood flooring, instead of concrete, accentuates the sense of transition from above to below.
As part of the Pulitzer’s goal to “push the boundaries of the traditional arts encounter,” the first shows opening after the renovation will respond specifically to the museum’s new rebuilt environment. Among them is the exhibition Richard Tuttle Wire Pieces, which will probe spatial relationships with minimal wire sculptures. There will also be a five-month series named Press Play, which aims to inspire visitors to explore the architecture and other concurrent exhibitions through sound—works will ranges from cushion designs to symphony concerts, activating “every nook, corner, and expanse of the space.”