Beaux Meets New

The St. Louis Art Museum has announced the June 29th opening of its recently completed expansion, the East Building. The walls are up, the lights are on, and all that remains to be done is the lengthy process of hanging artwork. The David Chipperfield-designed building will bring together new and old as it connects to the Cass Gilbert-designed Beaux Arts building that has housed a top tier collection of art since 1904.

In 2005, Sir David Chipperfield was unanimously chosen by the museum’s commissioners to design the extension. It’d be safe to say the St. Louis Art Museum made a good investment. Since then, Mr. Chipperfield has been knighted by the Queen of England and directed the 13th International Architecture Exhibition for the Venice Biennale in 2012. The city of St. Louis was clearly behind the expansion as a capital campaign to raise funds exceeded its goal by $15 million. Local firm HOK was tapped as the architect-of-record.

A significant feature of the new building will be natural sunlight—with numerous floor-to-ceiling windows and a coffered ceiling of 698 skylights, each visit to the museum will vary depending on time of day and weather conditions. The scrim-covered skylights were designed in collaboration with Arup and ensure ample, but controlled lighting to protect the artwork. From Forest Park, the grounds surrounding the museum, the expansive windows serve as frames for views into the museum. Conversely, when inside, visitors will look out to exteriors currently being updated by landscape designer Michel Desvigne. The first phase of his master plan includes installation of outdoor sculptures, restoration of grass and planting of trees and shrubs.

In addition to a plethora of glass, the building is faced with polished concrete. Sir David Chipperfield added depth to the façade by incorporating Missouri river aggregates into the material. Inside, 21 galleries will grow the museum’s exhibition space by nearly 30 percent. Appropriately, the East Building will be used to display modern and contemporary art while former temporary exhibition galleries in the Main Building will make room for pieces from the permanent collection—478 of which have not been seen in public for at least 20 years. Reinstalled works in the 50 renovated galleries will debut at a show titled A New View (of which there are many!).

Underneath the East Building, a three-level garage will accommodate 300 cars and plug-ins for electric vehicles. Moving a large quantity of parking underground will enhance the landscape and reduce the somewhat distracting presence of cars when entering the museum grounds.

Here's a link to more information on the St. Louis Art Museum.

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