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Kimball Art Center Finalists

Last week I was in Park City, Utah, home of the Kimball Art Center. Founded in 1976, and housed in what was once the Kimball Bros. auto garage, the Kimball is a living museum offering the people of this sleepy ski town (unless you show up for the Sundance Film Festival) gallery space, classes, education, and community engagement. And it's about to nearly triple in size thanks to its Transformation Project. Five architecture firms out of a shortlist of some 200 have been selected by the Kimball to design the extension it hopes to open by 2015. Check out the slideshow to see which designs have made the cut and to learn more about how this particular architecture competition works.

Here's the entry from Will Bruder + Partners, a firm from Arizona. One of the main challenges facing the Kimball is that its entry faces Park Avenue, not Main Street. By orienting the extension to Main, Bruder redresses this programmatic challenge. Notice that in this rendering's panoply of street action that the handsome man in the leather jacket on the left is none other than Robert Redford. Clearly playing to the crowd.

In my time in Park City I met with Robin Marrouche, Executive Director of the Kimball and board member Buzz Strasser to sort out precisely how this architecture competition will run. I find many of these competitions entirely mysterious, a process where time is marked more by press releases than the actual practice of architecture. But Marrouch and Strasser described exactly how things went, including the Kimball's very tight timeline.

At the outset they started with a shortlist of some 200 design firms, but with the help of competition advisor Donald Stastny, narrowed it down to 18. In September the 18 firms got their letters of invitation and had a scant couple weeks to reply with letters of intent. On October 13th the jury reviewed their submissions and the next day chose the five finalists you'll see in the slideshow.

Since then the architects have presented their firms and ideas to Park City (November 2nd), supplied models (December 21st), have had their work on display to the public (December 21st to January 13th). The architects each get an hour to present another set of models on February 2nd and the jury makes its decision on February 3rd.

All told, it's an extremely accelerated process that Marrouche says the Kimball could not have gotten through without Stastny's help. I'm excited to see who wins!

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