Visiting the Parrish Art Museum

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By Maggie Nolin / Published by Dwell
In our October Modern Across America issue, we previewed the Hamptons' Parrish Art Museum, designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron with interiors by Konstantin Grcic. Last week, we had the chance to see the building in person, right before it opened to the public on Saturday, November 10. When driving up the Montauk Highway on the eastern end of Long Island, it’s unclear if you are approaching an art museum or a farm. That is the subtle beauty of Parrish's new home, a space where industry meets the pastoral.

Lead architect Ascan Mergenthaler from Herzog & de Meuron wanted this "modern farmhouse" to honor the legacy of local artists while pushing the boundaries of museum design. For materials, Mergenthaler decided "to keep things simple, but also to introduce an institutional sense to the building" arriving at an elegant combination of retrieved pine and plywood as well as poured concrete.

At over 30,000 square feet, the building is defined by a long corridor running the length of the building and is flanked by seven galleries inspired by the traditional artist studios Ascan visited when researching the project. A covered terrace is furnished with a bench built into the 615-foot-long concrete façade on either side of the building. With windows on both sides, visitors are able to see the inner-most workings of the museum and employees have space to handle the museum’s extensive permanent collection which, due to space restrictions, was previously kept in storage.

Munich-based industrial designer Konstantin Grcic was given the responsibility of furnishing the museum, leading to the creation of the Parrish Chair, as seen in the museum’s café and terraces. This commission, produced by Emeco, will officially launch at Salone del Mobile in Milan in April of 2013. For lighting, Ascan turned to physicists to research the legenary Long Island light that has attracted artists over the years. The specific orientation of the building allows for plenty of natural light, meaning no spotlights, a rarity in North America. Arup’s Andy Sedgewick instead installed bare fluorescents to the pitched ceiling.

In addition to the permanent collection, including works by William Merritt Chase and Fairfield Porter, a Malcolm Morley exhibition will be on display through January.

Visiting the Parrish Art Museum - Photo 1 of 9 - Doug Reed, landscape architect on the project, incorporated indigenous plants into the surrounding site; the large expanse of meadows will flourish in the coming years.

Doug Reed, landscape architect on the project, incorporated indigenous plants into the surrounding site; the large expanse of meadows will flourish in the coming years.

Visiting the Parrish Art Museum - Photo 2 of 9 - The building’s specific orientation on the site, neither parallel nor orthogonal to the street, allows galleries to receive a maximum amount of natural light.

The building’s specific orientation on the site, neither parallel nor orthogonal to the street, allows galleries to receive a maximum amount of natural light.

Visiting the Parrish Art Museum - Photo 3 of 9 - Skylights allow for the natural variability of light to occur and reproduce the lighting embraced by Long Island artists, showing the versatility of each piece of art depending on weather conditions.

Skylights allow for the natural variability of light to occur and reproduce the lighting embraced by Long Island artists, showing the versatility of each piece of art depending on weather conditions.

Visiting the Parrish Art Museum - Photo 4 of 9 - Reclaimed pine and plywood make up the interior ceiling which is pitched at an angle and fitted with pipes to allow drainage.

Reclaimed pine and plywood make up the interior ceiling which is pitched at an angle and fitted with pipes to allow drainage.

Visiting the Parrish Art Museum - Photo 5 of 9 - In creating this place for visitors to rest and take in the lush landscape, Herzog & de Meuron's lead architect Ascan Mergenthaler says the built-in benches put the concrete walls on a more "human scale" without interrupting the streamlined façade.

In creating this place for visitors to rest and take in the lush landscape, Herzog & de Meuron's lead architect Ascan Mergenthaler says the built-in benches put the concrete walls on a more "human scale" without interrupting the streamlined façade.

Visiting the Parrish Art Museum - Photo 6 of 9 - Produced by Emeco and designed by Konstantin Grgic of Munich-based KGID specifically for the museum, the Parrish Chair will be launched at Salone del Mobile in April of 2013.

Produced by Emeco and designed by Konstantin Grgic of Munich-based KGID specifically for the museum, the Parrish Chair will be launched at Salone del Mobile in April of 2013.

Visiting the Parrish Art Museum - Photo 7 of 9 - The café and gift shop are installations in and of themselves, capitalizing on the salvaged wood materials to create a more intimate environment within the museum.

The café and gift shop are installations in and of themselves, capitalizing on the salvaged wood materials to create a more intimate environment within the museum.

Visiting the Parrish Art Museum - Photo 8 of 9 - A wide corridor, essentially the spine of the building, is flanked by galleries, the café and gift shop, administrative offices and a 200-seat multi-purpose room.

A wide corridor, essentially the spine of the building, is flanked by galleries, the café and gift shop, administrative offices and a 200-seat multi-purpose room.

Visiting the Parrish Art Museum - Photo 9 of 9 - From windows on either side of the administrative offices, visitors can view the inner-workings of the museum. As more of the permanent collection comes out of storage due to the increase in space, the offices will be a staging ground for curatorial and museum staff.

From windows on either side of the administrative offices, visitors can view the inner-workings of the museum. As more of the permanent collection comes out of storage due to the increase in space, the offices will be a staging ground for curatorial and museum staff.