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January 17, 2012

Boston's venerable Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum—founded in 1903 by a lady art patron and obsessive collector of antiquities—has been one of the city's crown cultural jewels for the past century, so taking on a contemporary expansion that would double it in size was no easy feat. Lucky for the Gardner, Italian architect Renzo Piano was up for the task, adding on a new wing of four floating volumes clad in verdigris-hued copper. The building, connected to the existing "palace" by a transparent walkway, houses a variety of programming venues (cafe, greenhouse, artist apartments, concert hall, education center, and gallery space) meant not to expand attendance numbers, but the sensory experience of existing visitors. 

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).
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).
Courtesy of 
Nic Lehoux / Renzo Piano Building Workshop
1 / 17
Evening exterior view of the new Evans Way Park entrance of the Renzo Piano-designed wing of the Gardner Museum, which houses a 2,500-square-foot greenhouse.
Evening exterior view of the new Evans Way Park entrance of the Renzo Piano-designed wing of the Gardner Museum, which houses a 2,500-square-foot greenhouse.
Courtesy of 
Nic Lehoux / Renzo Piano Building Workshop
2 / 17
From the outside peering in at the new Special Exhibition
Gallery in the Piano wing. The Living Room visitor
orientation space sits below.
From the outside peering in at the new Special Exhibition Gallery in the Piano wing. The Living Room visitor orientation space sits below.
Courtesy of 
Nic Lehoux / Renzo Piano Building Workshop
3 / 17
A view of the central grand staircase in the new wing. The historic palace building is visible through the windows in the rear.
A view of the central grand staircase in the new wing. The historic palace building is visible through the windows in the rear.
Courtesy of 
Nic Lehoux / Renzo Piano Building Workshop
4 / 17
A cross-section view of the staircase, showing the pleated green facade beyond the windows.
A cross-section view of the staircase, showing the pleated green facade beyond the windows.
Courtesy of 
Nic Lehoux / Renzo Piano Building Workshop
5 / 17
View from a balcony of Calderwood Hall in the new wing: the acoustics in the space were engineered by Yasuhisa Toyota, who has worked on Frank Gehry's Disney concert in L.A., among many others. His first meeting with Renzo Piano was, architecturally speak
View from a balcony of Calderwood Hall in the new wing: the acoustics in the space were engineered by Yasuhisa Toyota, who has worked on Frank Gehry's Disney concert in L.A., among many others. His first meeting with Renzo Piano was, architecturally speaking, "love at first sight."
Courtesy of 
Nic Lehoux / Renzo Piano Building Workshop
6 / 17
Section view of the technologically advanced Caldwell Hall, designed by Renzo Piano with the acoustical expertise of Yasuhisa Toyota.
Section view of the technologically advanced Caldwell Hall, designed by Renzo Piano with the acoustical expertise of Yasuhisa Toyota.
Courtesy of 
Renzo Piano Building Workshop
7 / 17
The Living Room designed by Renzo Piano
A view of the new Living Room visitor orientation space on the ground floor of the Gardner's new wing. Furniture selected by Renzo Piano Workshop, including the vibrant red seating. Not pictured: a guest book commissioned from artist Stefano Arienti, who also created the installation piece hanging on the entry facade.
Courtesy of 
Nic Lehoux / Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Originally appeared in 10 Minute Interview: Renzo Piano
8 / 17
Renzo Piano designed even the smallest detail, like the electronic placards posted throughout the new wing. They are pictured here in the entrance hall, a transparent portal to the building behind.
Renzo Piano designed even the smallest detail, like the electronic placards posted throughout the new wing. They are pictured here in the entrance hall, a transparent portal to the building behind.
Courtesy of 
Kelsey Keith
9 / 17
Lighting detail in the Claire and John Bertolucci Education Studio, an art-making space currently featuring work by artist-in-residence Cesare Pietroiusti.
Lighting detail in the Claire and John Bertolucci Education Studio, an art-making space currently featuring work by artist-in-residence Cesare Pietroiusti.
Courtesy of 
Kelsey Keith
10 / 17
Gardner's contemporary curator Pieranna Cavalchini in front of artist Victoria Morton's first US solo show, as seen in the new exhibition gallery. The gallery's ceilings can be modified between 12, 24, and 36 feet in height!
Gardner's contemporary curator Pieranna Cavalchini in front of artist Victoria Morton's first US solo show, as seen in the new exhibition gallery. The gallery's ceilings can be modified between 12, 24, and 36 feet in height!
Courtesy of 
Kelsey Keith
11 / 17
Renzo Piano's sketch of his vision for the transparent connector between the historical palace and the contemporary wing of the Gardner museum.
Renzo Piano's sketch of his vision for the transparent connector between the historical palace and the contemporary wing of the Gardner museum.
Courtesy of 
Renzo Piano Building Workshop
12 / 17
The red, felt-covered seats designed by Piano in the Caldwell Auditorium are incredibly straight-backed and surprisingly comfortable.
The red, felt-covered seats designed by Piano in the Caldwell Auditorium are incredibly straight-backed and surprisingly comfortable.
Courtesy of 
Kelsey Keith
13 / 17
Connecting the original Willard T. Sears building to the Renzo Piano addition is a glassy vertebrae, which Piano describes as a "conversation," not to close to the subject and not too far away.
Connecting the original Willard T. Sears building to the Renzo Piano addition is a glassy vertebrae, which Piano describes as a "conversation," not to close to the subject and not too far away.
Courtesy of 
Kelsey Keith
14 / 17
The underside of the vertically-oriented Caldwell Auditorium, built like a high-tech black box theatre.
The underside of the vertically-oriented Caldwell Auditorium, built like a high-tech black box theatre.
Courtesy of 
Kelsey Keith
15 / 17
In the Living Room orientation space, it's not a sound installation you're hearing: it's real, live birds. (Apparently they have their own staff member as a caretaker.)
In the Living Room orientation space, it's not a sound installation you're hearing: it's real, live birds. (Apparently they have their own staff member as a caretaker.)
Courtesy of 
Kelsey Keith
16 / 17
A view of the old palace, looking out from the stairwell in the new wing and across the glass ground-floor walkway.
A view of the old palace, looking out from the stairwell in the new wing and across the glass ground-floor walkway.
Courtesy of 
Kelsey Keith
17 / 17
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).
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).
Architect 

For more Renzo Piano in Boston, see how the project developed at the building's very own blog.

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