Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Boston, RPBW Building Image, Galleries Restoration Design News

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Boston Architecture

Historic Galleries Restoration design by Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW)

Jan 12, 2012

Design: Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Opens a New Wing and Restored Historic Galleries to Public on January 19, 2012

Extension Designed by Pritzker Prize-Winning Architect Renzo Piano

Opening Celebration Features Three Exhibitions, Artists Projects, Concerts, Bank of America Community Opening Days, and Members Previews

Evening view of the façade of the new Evans Way Park entrance of the new wing of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Outdoor art installation “Ailanthus” by Stefano Arienti (top left):
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Boston building at night
photograph © Nic Lehoux / Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Boston Building

Boston, MA, January 11, 2012 ▪ On January 19, 2012, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum will open to the public a new addition to its original building, kicking off an inaugural season of exhibitions, performances, and events that highlight the Museum’s wide range of programming. The new 70,000-square-foot wing was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano to preserve the historic 1902 building and alleviate pressures caused by years of use.

Situated behind the original building on its site along the Fenway, the new addition provides purpose-built spaces for concerts, exhibitions, and classes, along with enhanced visitor amenities. Following special advance previews for Museum members on January 15-18, the grand opening celebration will begin with a ribbon-cutting ceremony with City of Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino on January 19, followed by three days of free Bank of America Community Opening Days from January 19-21.

“This new wing is an extraordinarily elegant workshop, a bustling counterpoint to the historic building’s serenity. Here, the thinking and the work of the Museum is performed, so that the Palace, which had been put to uses for which it was not equipped, can once again give visitors the experience Isabella Stewart Gardner intended: a personal confrontation with art,” said Anne Hawley, Norma Jean Calderwood Director of the Museum.

Evening exterior view of the new Special Exhibition Gallery in the new wing of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The Living Room visitor orientation space sits below:
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Boston Building
photograph © Nic Lehoux / Renzo Piano Building Workshop

The Design
The design of the Museum’s new wing incorporates glass and natural light to create an open and welcoming entrance, as well as to provide uninterrupted views of the historic building and gardens. The building features four volumes clad in green pre-patinated copper and red brick that appear to “float” above the transparent first floor. Key features of the new wing are a cube-shaped performance hall and an adjustable height special exhibition gallery, which are the Museum’s first purpose-built spaces to accommodate such functions.

Visitors enter the Museum through a new entrance facing Evans Way Park into the glass-enclosed Bekenstein Family Lobby. A new space, named the Richard E. Floor Living Room, welcomes the visitor in an intimate domestic-like setting where hosts, books, and touch screen monitors on easels offer information about Isabella Stewart Gardner, the collection and its unique installation, and the Museum’s Artist-in-Residence Program.

Calderwood Hall, the Museum’s new performance hall, is the largest space in the new wing at 6,000 square feet, and is designed in collaboration with acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota of Nagata Acoustics. With 300 seats configured in three balcony levels surrounding the central performing area on all four sides, the hall preserves the intimate experience that has long characterized the Gardner Museum’s music program.

The Special Exhibition Gallery, which will present three major exhibitions each year, is a flexible space featuring a retractable ceiling and a full wall of windows overlooking the historic Museum and the Monks Garden. The addition also houses working greenhouses, a landscape classroom and expanded outdoor garden spaces; two artist apartments; conservation labs; the Claire and John Bertucci Education Studio, which will offer hands-on art workshops for students and families; a new store, called Gift at the Gardner; and a new restaurant, Café G, with indoor and seasonal outdoor seating.

“Isabella Gardner’s Palace, with its treasured collection and inimitable installations, its verdant courtyard and mesmerizing corridors, will always be the focus of the Museum, but it could only remain so with the construction of a companion building. With housing for resident scholars and artists, labs for the conservation of the collection, and room for public assembly and school partners, the new wing frees up the historic building to fulfill its historic purpose,” added Hawley.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is seeking LEED gold certification by the United States Green Building Council. Primary components of the sustainable design are a geothermal well system, daylight harvesting, water-efficient landscaping techniques, and the use of local and regional materials, which reduces the environmental impact associated with transport.

A stage level view of Calderwood Hall in the new wing of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum:
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Wing
photograph © Nic Lehoux / Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Restoration of the Palace
Since 1990, the Gardner Museum has completed significant restoration work on the historic palace building to stabilize its structure and help accommodate increased programming and attendance. Projects have included replacing the skylight over the courtyard with thermal pane glass and installing a climate-control system.

Construction of the extension complements preservation work that is ongoing within the historic building, including a decade-long lighting project to protect sensitive artwork and improve the visitor experience.

A centerpiece of the Museum preservation project is the Tapestry Room, which has been restored to its original glory after being used for 85 years as a temporary concert hall. As the Museum’s world-class concerts will now take place in the new wing’s Calderwood Hall, the Tapestry Room has been returned to its former configuration to be experienced as a grand tapestry hall.

Conservation treatment of the space included the cleaning of its Mercer-tiled floors, restoration of the French medieval stone fireplace, reinstallation of select art and furniture objects, replacement of historic textiles with reproductions, and new lighting.

Exterior view of the new Evans Way Park entrance of the new wing of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Outdoor art installation “Ailanthus” by Stefano Arienti (right):
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
photograph © Nic Lehoux / Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Exhibitions and Programming
The design of the new wing fulfills the programmatic demands of the Museum, encompassing five curatorial areas of Landscape, Scholarship, Education, Contemporary Art, and Music. Each derives from areas of passion and exploration expressed by Isabella Gardner during the early years of the Museum.

The Gardner will open its new wing with exhibitions by contemporary artists, all of whom have roots in the Museum’s Artist-in-Residence program, which celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year. The inaugural show in the new Special Exhibition Gallery will be Tapestry (Radio On): New Work by Victoria Morton (on view through May 28), the first solo exhibition in an American museum by the Scottish painter and sculptor.

Morton invites viewers to closely examine densely detailed canvases and encounter objects that expand the space of paintings. Points of View: 20 Years of Artists-in-Residence at the Gardner, a complementary exhibition on view through August 13 in the introductory space of the new gallery, will further celebrate the Artist-in-Residence program by presenting a selection of works by past participants, as well as objects from the collection and artists’ correspondence.

The work of Los Angeles-based photographer Luisa Lambri will be featured in Portrait, an artistic meditation on the Gardner Museum’s unique spaces, presented in a new gallery space in the former entrance vestibule of the historic building through October 15. Also on view at the opening is a site-specific outdoor work—a drawing of a bright red tree titled Ailanthus, by Italian artist Stefano Arienti. The first work to be installed on a new 34-foot-high by 16-foot-wide space on the façade of the new wing, it will be on view through 2012.

The Gardner’s celebrated music program will relocate to Calderwood Hall and offer expanded programming in chamber music, new music, and jazz. From January through June 2012, the Sunday Concert Series will feature 18 concerts, the monthly Jazz at the Gardner series will continue, and Avant Gardner will extend its cutting-edge classical music programming into a monthly series. Calderwood Hall also will host many of the Museum’s public programs, including talks by leading figures in the field of landscape design, and lectures about collection highlights.

Funding ▪ The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Extension and Preservation Project is funded through a variety of sources, including private gifts, foundation and corporate support, and tax-exempt bonds. The Museum launched the public phase of its $180 million Campaign for the Gardner in May 2010, and has less than 20% left to raise as of January 2012. The total cost of the new wing is $114 million. In addition, the Campaign includes funds for endowment, preservation work on the collection, and the restoration of historic galleries.

Evening exterior view of the new Evans Way Park entrance of the new wing of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum:
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
photograph © Nic Lehoux / Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Renzo Piano Building Workshop ▪ ▪ Renzo Piano was born in Genoa, Italy, in 1937 to a family of builders. He graduated from Milan Polytechnic in 1964 and began to work with experimental light-weight structures and basic shelters. In 1971, he founded the Piano & Rogers studio and, together with Richard Rogers, won the competition for the Centre Pompidou in Paris. From the early 1970s to the 1990s, Piano collaborated with engineer Peter Rice, founding Atelier Piano & Rice in 1977.

In 1981, he established the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, with offices today in Genoa, Paris and New York. Renzo Piano has been awarded the highest honors in architecture, including: the Pritzker Prize; RIBA Royal Gold Medal; Medaille d’Or, UIA; Erasmus Prize; and, recently, the Gold Medal of the AIA. For the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum project, Emanuela Baglietto, partner of RPBW, served as the Senior Partner in Charge.

Additional project partners include: Burt Hill (now part of Stantec), architect of record; Buro Happold, structural and mechanical engineers; Paratus Group, owner’s representative; and Shawmut Design and Construction, construction management, and L + A Landscape Architects.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum • 280 The Fenway Boston MA 02115 • Entrance on Evans Way • Hours: Wednesday through Monday, 11 am-5 pm and until 9 pm on Thursday • Admission: Adults $15; Seniors $12; Students $5; Free for members, children under 18, everyone on his/her birthday, and all named “Isabella” • $2 off admission with a same-day Museum of Fine Arts, Boston ticket • Info Line: 617.566.1401 • Box Office: 617.278.5156 •

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum—a work of art in totality—is at once an intimate collection of fine and decorative art and a vibrant, innovative venue for contemporary artists, musicians and scholars. Housed in a 1902 building, modeled after a 15th century Venetian palazzo, and a 2012 wing, designed by Renzo Piano, the Museum provides an unusual backdrop for the viewing of art.

The Collection galleries installed in rooms surrounding the verdant Courtyard, contain more than 2,500 paintings, sculptures, tapestries, furniture, manuscripts, rare books and decorative arts featuring works by Titian, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Manet, Degas, Whistler and Sargent. For more information on the new wing, please visit . Also, visit the Gardner Museum online at for more about special exhibitions, concerts, innovative arts education programs, and evening events.

Opening Sponsors • Opening year exhibitions are made possible in part by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Bank of America is the sponsor of Community Opening Days and education programs. Community programs are also supported by JPMorgan Chase and The Yawkey Foundation. Thursday evening programming is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Fidelity Investments is the opening year sponsor of Jazz at the Gardner. Other opening year sponsors include First Republic Bank, Hemenway & Barnes LLP, Hemenway Trust Company LLC, TD Bank, and Welch & Forbes. The Museum receives operating support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Media Sponsor: Boston Globe Media, Inc.

Evening exterior view of the new Evans Way Park lobby entrance of the new wing of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Outdoor art installation “Ailanthus” by Stefano Arienti (right):
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
photograph © Nic Lehoux / Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum images / information received 110112

Location: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA, USA

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