Located in the Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood of Boston, and originally established in 1903, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum will be introducing its new Special Exhibition Gallery to the public this Thursday, January 19, 2012.
Designed by Renzo Piano, the design of the new wing incorporates ample glazed surfaces, bringing plenty of natural light to the open, interior gallery spaces, as well as allowing for uninterrupted views to the historic building and surrounding gardens. Primary features of this new wing of the Museum include: a 6,000-square-foot, cube-shaped performance hall, otherwise known as Calderwood Hall, that consists of 300 seats in a three-balcony, in-the-round configuration; and a Special Exhibition Gallery that includes a retractable ceiling to accommodate three major exhibitions each year and a full curtain wall overlooking the Monks Garden. These two volumes, along with two others, float above the seemingly transparent entry hall on the ground floor, the Bekenstein Family Lobby, which is entered from the new entrance off of Evans Way Park. The Richard E. Floor Living Room serves as a new information center of sorts, providing visitors with details on Isabella Stewart Gardner, the collection and its unique installation, and the Museum’s Artist-in-Residence program.
Additional, new amenities also include working greenhouses and outdoor garden spaces, two artist apartments, conservation labs, a new Gift at the Gardner store, a new restaurant named Café G with both indoor and outdoor seating, and the Claire and John Bertucci Education Studio, which will offer hands-on arts workshops to visitors of all ages.
The purpose of the new companion building is to free up the historic building and allow it to fulfill its historic purpose of housing its primary, treasured collection and installations, according to Anne Hawley, Norma Jean Calderwood Director of the Museum, in a recent interview with artdaily.org. Previously, for 85 years, the historic building’s Tapestry Room had been temporarily converted into a concert hall to host the Museum’s world-class concerts. With the construction of Calderwood Hall in the new wing, the Tapestry Room can now be reconfigured and restored to its original glory to display historic textiles and reproductions with a new lighting system, the restored French medieval stone fireplace and the reinstallation of select art and furniture pieces.
The new wing is currently seeking LEED Gold certification with the United States Green Building Council. Sustainable components in the new design by Renzo Piano include a geothermal well system, daylight harvesting, water-efficient landscaping techniques, and the use of local and regional materials, which lowers the carbon footprint transporting such materials from non-local sources would entail.
Following special, members-only events on January 15-18, the grand opening ceremony of the new 70,000-square-foot wing will begin with a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Mayor Thomas M. Menino on January 19, followed by three days of free Bank of America Community Opening Days from January 19-21, 2012.
Photography © Nic Lehoux / Renzo Piano Building Workshop for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.