written by:
July 1, 2014
The striking Massachusetts museum Clark Art Institute reopens its doors after a decade-long transformation.
tadao ando visitor centre reflecting pools trees

The Clark Art Institute's tiered reflecting pools were conceived by Tadao Ando and developed by Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architecture. Image courtesy of the Clark Art Institute.

Courtesy of 
Clark Art Institute.
1 / 7
Water cascades from one pool to the next and is then recycled and reused for landscape irrigation and building systems. Image courtesy of the Clark Art Institute.
2 / 7
More than 65 percent of Ando's visitor center space is below ground, in order to maximize space without interfering with the surrounding landscape. Image courtesy of the Clark Art Institute.
3 / 7
clark institute museum building
New York architect Annabelle Selldorf, who in 2013 finished another art gallery in Chelsea for David Zwirner, is renovating both the original neo-Classical museum building and the Brutalist Manton Research Center. Image courtesy of the Clark Art Institute.
4 / 7
gallery tadao ando visitor center
A portion of its collection came back to the Clark after a 3-year international tour which was seen by 2.6 million people. Image courtesy of the Clark Art Institute.
5 / 7
stone hill center nigh tadao ando
Two hiking trails lead to the Lunder Center at Stone Hill which was designed by Tadao Ando in 2008. Image courtesy of the Clark Art Institute.
6 / 7
david smith stone hill center art tadao ando
The gallery at Stone Hill is currently presenting "Raw Color: The Circles of David Smith" (July 4-October 29). Image courtesy of the Clark Art Institute.
7 / 7
tadao ando visitor centre reflecting pools trees

The Clark Art Institute's tiered reflecting pools were conceived by Tadao Ando and developed by Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architecture. Image courtesy of the Clark Art Institute.

The new center at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute opens up before its guests almost imperceptibly, the entrance revealing itself only after visitors have walked down a long path framed by a slab of red granite. The granite parts to unveil a dazzling reflecting pool which unites the three central buildings of Clark’s 140-acre campus. This area is the nucleus of a decade-long transformation of the Williamstown, Massachusetts, museum which brought together the famed architects Tadao Ando, Annabelle Selldorf, and Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architects and finally reopened its doors on July 4th.

The first stop at the reimagined Clark is Tadao Ando’s visitor center. As his other works in the United States, the Pulitzer Foundation in St. Louis and the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, Ando's visitor center is austere and meditative, a transitional space that points to other buildings rather than draws attention to itself. Granite and glass are the main materials and their primary role, according to Ando, is to draw the eye to the hill that rises above the Clark. The minimalist visitor center is followed by a restrained reconfiguration of the galleries in the Museum Building, where Annabelle Selldorf turned the long corridors of the previous incarnation into smaller rooms, giving the space a more intimate air, appropriate for the museum’s collection which is famous for nineteenth-century American and European art.

Connecting these buildings is a three-tiered reflecting pool, which was one of the main points of contention in the 14-year-long, $145 million transformation of the Clark. Nonetheless, as it oscillates between turning opaque and reflecting the rolling hills above it, the pool is undoubtedly the crowning achievement of the project. Stemming from Ando’s idea it was made a reality by the landscape firm Reed Hilderbrand, which took into account the practicalities of the site and the need for a sustainable solution that could provide irrigation for the campus and withstand the cold Massachusetts winters. In a particularly inspired detail, the pool will become a functioning skating rink in the winter, drawing in even the most reluctant visitors. 

And while on a recent trip most guests elbowed their way to take pictures of Tadao Ando, who had come from Osaka for the reopening, the true success of the Clark lies not in its association with the great architect, but in the thoughtful harmony of its many elements. From the unlikely pairing of the original 1955 neo-Classical building and the 1970s Brutalist Manton Research Center to the way Ando’s Visitor Center responds to the sprawling fields above, the Clark is not a conglomeration of disparate elements but a balanced whole. While many elements of the project, such as the time and the money invested, as well the involvement of a famed starchitect, might have resulted in a overambitious muddle, the reimagined Clark is a subtle work, one that successfully presents art, architecture, and nature as nothing short of equals.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

tech support stillwater dwellings prefab exterior napa
In Napa, a custom menu of apps helps a frequent traveler keep track of security—and his garden—from afar.
May 04, 2016
home for good renovation montreal family rear facade steel cladding footbridge garden
This family opens up an old structure and imagines a long-term house.
May 04, 2016
BKLYN DESIGNS 2016 location
From panel discussions to virtual reality demonstrations and more, this weekend will bring out the designer in everyone during BKLYN DESIGNS at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint from May 6-8, 2016. Here are just a few activities and installations to check out.
May 04, 2016
cbill timmerman photography jarson residence l7c4109 0
After a successful kick-off program in San Diego, we’re now making our way to Scottsdale, Arizona for the second stop on our Dwell Home Tours series. As the only desert locale on our agenda, we’re giving visitors the chance to explore exquisite modern residences that are fully immersed in the city’s arid landscape.
May 04, 2016
Modern winery in Central California
An updated California winery captures a prestigious architecture award.
May 03, 2016
back to the garden rhode island cottage small space facade landscaping
Outside Providence, Rhode Island, a little retreat takes up no more space than a standard two-car garage.
May 03, 2016
White staircase with skylight and under-stair storage
With clever storage and a retractable skylight, a London apartment feels larger than its 576 square feet.
May 03, 2016
Off-the-grid prefab in pristine Tasmanian landscape by Misho+Associates.
In Tasmania, an eco-conscious architect builds a vacation home that can stand up to an untamed island.
May 03, 2016
30degree pendants by wrong.london
The Danish design brand never disappoints.
May 02, 2016
practical magic brooklyn renocation kitchen caesarstone countertop stainless steel ikea cabinetes green vola faucet
A creative couple flips the script on their family home, a former workman’s cottage on the northern edge of Brooklyn.
May 02, 2016
history lesson kansas city outdoor backyard facade porch saarinen round table emeco navy chairs
An architect pushes the vernacular architecture of Missouri into the modern realm.
May 02, 2016
mission possible san francisco renovation facade exterior french doors cedar
A dilapidated lot in San Francisco gets a second chance.
May 02, 2016
Eames Demetrios of Kcymaerxthaere
The Eames scion and "geographer-at-large" traverses the globe on behalf of Kcymaerxthaere, a network of markers and monuments that tells fictional tales about real-life communities.
May 02, 2016
marcel breuer architect letter office kansas city snower house
See a glimpse into the office of a master architect.
May 01, 2016
Santa Monica living room with an Yves Klein coffee table
Dwell editor-in-chief Amanda Dameron talks us through Dwell's May 2016 issue.
May 01, 2016
house that sottsass built maui hawaii memphis group home renovation ettore facade colored volumes
In Maui, of all places.
May 01, 2016
two of a kind padua italy matching family homes facade green roof doors color
For Dwell's annual issue dedicated to dream homes , we visited homes from Haiti to Italy. Here, we introduce you to the photographers and writers who made it happen.
April 30, 2016
houseofweek
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
April 30, 2016
W House living room
Our best reader reactions this week.
April 29, 2016
Vineyard house illuminated at night
Rammed-earth construction fuses this Portuguese house to the environment.
April 29, 2016
vintage Scandinavian furniture Kathryn Tyler
In southwest England, interior designer Kathryn Tyler built her home around her ever-expanding furniture collection.
April 29, 2016
steel facade home Seattle
On the sandy shores of Fauntleroy Cove in Seattle, renowned firm Olson Kundig Architects crafts a subtle home with striking steel accents.
April 29, 2016
seperate piece renovated guesthouse eames storage unit cork floor tiles living room
An architect and an interior designer put the tools to the test for this impressive renovation.
April 29, 2016
Ceramics by WrenLab
Manhattan doesn’t get to have all the fun during NYCxDesign. Brooklyn is set for the return of BKLYN DESIGNS at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint from May 6-8, 2016. Here are just a few exhibitors we are excited to see this year.
April 29, 2016
n0a6974 dxo
Architect Diego Revollo refreshes an apartment with a standout kitchen.
April 29, 2016
img 8652 1
The city of San Francisco has been eagerly awaiting the reopening of SFMOMA for years—and as the May 14th opening approaches closer everyday, the anticipation continues to build for art enthusiasts both near and far. This morning, we were given the opportunity to explore the newly expanded space before the crowds roll in. After a series of speeches, remarks, and tours, we left the grounds feeling thoroughly inspired and excited to share what we discovered.
April 28, 2016
intage Milo Baughman chairs, Darren Vigilant side table and B&B Italia sofa define the living room.
A family doesn’t have to travel far for a private oasis away from the busy city.
April 28, 2016
Renovation of 1967 Hamburg apartment with Vipp kitchen.
In our April issue, we showcased an apartment in Hamburg, Germany, with a striking, matte-black kitchen from Vipp. The 77-year-old company became famous for its iconic pedal trash can before venturing into kitchens and other tools for the home. This isn't the first time that the Danish company's products have graced our pages, and here we've gathered additional examples from our archive that show how the brand's minimalist black kitchens are always a win in modern interiors.
April 28, 2016
Zafra residence living room.
A man and his wife make an emotional return to an apartment building he loved as a kid.
April 28, 2016
the garden inside concrete dining pavilion indoor outdoor custom cabinets thermador dishwasher refrigerator
A skylit conservatory doubles as a verdant dining parlor in Sonoma County, California.
April 28, 2016