Location: Greenwich, Connecticut
Completion Date: Spring 2023
At the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, science and art intertwine in more ways than one. New Orleans–based firm EskewDumezRipple has designed a new wing for the museum faced with precast concrete panels and glass. The addition’s stonework references the striated geological bedrock found in local quarries while being layered in banded proportions, forming a balance between the natural environment and artistic expression.
Initially conceived as a private residence in the mid-19th century for lawyer, clergyman and historian Francis Lister Hawks, the original structure was purchased by textile merchant Robert Moffat Bruce who turned the house over to the town of Greenwich so it could live on as a natural history and art museum. Today, it’s known as the Bruce Museum. Subsequent renovations over the years and a growing collection of art and objects has made the former residence into the cultural destination it is today. Completion of an expansion plan dubbed The New Bruce is almost done. The effort will double the size of the museum by expanding its existing footprint, and the new wing designed by EskewDumezRipple lies at the core of this process.
Expanded storage for collection objects, flexible exhibition spaces, a new entrance lobby, and a lecture hall are all housed within the new wing, which is just over 40,000 square feet in size and rises three stories. The addition doesn’t press up against the existing structure; instead, it stands apart from the existing pale, gabled volume perched atop a stone base and reads as a separate volume. A courtyard space realized between the two structures physically unites the two disparate designs. This interstitial landscape also serves as an extension of the surrounding park. A new sculpture garden, walking trails, and other natural enhancements to Bruce Park are other updates planned for the campus.
The museum’s bucolic setting guided this latest renovation and also posed challenges: The site drops about 50 feet in elevation, and it was important to preserve the existing trees and rocks.
“From protecting the landscape to negotiating the steep hill both in design and through construction—the site was a challenging one to work on, but simultaneously the same things that will make the outcome so rich,” Design Director and Principal-in-Charge at EskewDumezRipple Steve Dumez, told AN. “Truly a whole greater than the sum of its part, The Bruce’s unique experience is realized in large part from the dialogue between architecture, landscape, geology and topography.”
A series of facade studies reveal the various points of inspiration the design team used when realizing the facade before landing on the precast concrete panels. Among these were a look into lace walls, as seen in the stone fences built by New England farmers, and in the striated patterning of quarries along the Connecticut coast.
“The facade pays homage to two main sources of inspiration: natural stone quarries and vernacular lace walls, which the natives and indigenous people of Connecticut used to delineate property lines,” Dumez added.
While monolithic in appearance, the spacing and arrangement of the stones across the facade introduces a sense of openness and, according to Project Architect Javi Marcano, “speaks to the solid/void relationships of the project.” The facade consists of 80-inch modules of precast concrete panels composed of varying sized and shaped stones. This module size was chosen for the striking effects of light and shadow that are created when they are illuminated by daylight. (It was also ideal for ease of shipping and installation.) The module is translated in resized iterations across the building and is used to dimension the curtain-wall glazing, the entry level’s rainscreen metal panels, and the stair risers.
Marcano also shared that “the optimization of the building envelope not only prioritized performance but also put beauty and experience at the forefront.”
Previously, one entered the museum from the north, where the sloping site was hidden from view. To reimagine the approach to the museum, EskewDumezRipple worked with landscape architects Reed Hildebrand to locate a new entry point in the addition which faces the park. The architects worked with a suite of consultants and manufacturers and credit these collaborations with the success of the design.
“Pulling from the insights of multiple disciplines, we were able to deliver a unique design, that was constructible, performance-driven and beautiful,” Marcano stated.
- Architect: EskewDumezRipple
- Location: Greenwich, Connecticut
- Completion Date: Spring, 2023
- Client: Bruce Museum
- Project Manager: Andy Fox, Stone Harbor Land Company
- Landscape Architect: Reed Hilderbrand
- Structural Engineering: Guy Nordenson and Associates
- MEP Engineering: Altieri Sebor Wieber
- Civil Engineering: Redniss Mead
- Surveyor: Redniss Mead
- Geotechnical: Melick-Tully and Associates
- Lighting: Fisher Marantz Stone
- Acoustics and A/V: Jaffe Hodlen
- Security: Ducibella Venter Santore
- Food Service: Futch Design Associates
- Programming: M. Goodwin Museum Planning
- Tree Surveying: Bartlett Tree Experts
- Parking: Fogarty Cohen Selby & Nemiroff
- Envelope: Simpson Gumpertz & Heger
- Cost Estimating: Stuart-Lynn
- Code Consultant: Bruce J. Spiewak, Consulting Architect
- Facade Design Assist: Betons Prefabriques Du Lac.; Norwalk Glass Company; Guy Nordenson and Associates; Altieri Sebor Wieber; Turner Construction; Turner Engineering Group; Simpson Gumpertz & Heger
- Commissioning: The Stone House Group