Museums and their additions have become an important part of reimagining Rust Belt cities in the post-industrial middle section of the country. Cities like Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Akron have all invested, to great effect, in new art wings that push the boundaries of museum design. Now Columbus, Ohio, a city historically more stable than its neighbors, is also getting its own trademark museum wing in the form of a copper clad tube.
This October saw the opening of a new 50,000-square-foot wing to the Columbus Museum of Art, part of a multi-stage master plan conceived by Tod Williams Billie Tsein Architects and Michael Bongiorno, principal of Columbus-based DesignGroup. Until this point, the museum has not been able to host many of the larger traveling exhibitions or even display big portions of its own collection. This is due to the fact that it was limited to its original ten galleries built in 1931. With the addition of nearly 24,000 square feet of gallery space, the museum effectively doubles the size of its exhibition capacity, as well as its ability to add numerous new programs. Now able to host larger events and gatherings, the museum is hoping the addition will help tighten ties with the greater Columbus community.
Bongiorno described the design as, “a reflection of the museum’s ambition to be more visible, relevant, and connected to the community as a meeting point among art, the public, and the physical city.” To help meet these goals, DesignGroup focused on producing bright flexible spaces. These include an atrium between the new wing and the original 1974 Ross Wing that can be used for events and serves as the main entry to the new wing. The main gallery space is encapsulated in a long copper-clad tube cantilevered at each end over a new sculpture garden in the rear and the front lawn of the museum. The glass base and ends of the new wing look out into the city, as well as allow the city to look in. Also of note is a special gallery constructed specifically to hold the large “Spirit” art installation by Mel Chin, an epic wooden barrel seemingly suspended above the gallery floor balanced on a single rope.
As the final stage of a three-stage campaign, which included renovations to the original museum and repurposing of another building, the $64 million addition is the culmination of over eight years of planning and building. In that time, the museum’s investment has already started to pay dividends in awards and an expanding collection. Now with more space to exhibit and more diverse amenities, the museum is finally able to fully serve a community anxious to gather around art.