Architctural photographer and author Paul Clemence recently visited the museum, capturing his photos and experience in a blog post on the Metropolis magazine website. We'd like to share his visit here, or you can read it in the Metropolis POV blog.
By Paul Clemence
|Addition with original palace in the background|
After a long research for the appropriate designer, the museum’s board settled on Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW). Their expertise in programmatic and technological solutions was, without a doubt, a plus. But more than that, it was their refined aesthetic sensibility that makes buildings of a subtle yet lasting beauty; this made them the perfect candidate to tackle the project respectfully.
|Glass tunnel leading into the palace|
The goals for the project were clear: Make room in the original palazzo for the proper display and enjoyment of the collection, freeing up space that had been taken over by the more functional activities, as the building went from being a residence museum to a public museum. And pave the way to the future of the Gardner.
|Northwest elevation, facing Palace Road, |
with palace in the background
|Original palace atrium|
“Upon our first visit, as we walked into the courtyard we were taken by its fascinating sense of suspended atmosphere: the play of light and shadow, the exuberant plants and the flow of space. We knew then this was an opportunity to do something special,” says Emanuela Baglieto, architect manager working with Piano for over 23 years. “The sequence and drama of entering that building was something to be preserved in the new entrance.”
|Addition, Southeast elevation facing Evans Way Park|
|New visitor’s lounge/living room|
An essential part of the design is the connecting glass corridor, cutting through the lawn, 50 feet between the two buildings. Rightly called the “umbilical chord” by Piano, this transparent tunnel (the sides of which are lined with trees that will eventually envelope it, filtering the light and sight as one crosses it) does more than link the new to the old. It signals a life exchange between the two anachronistic structures, where the addition breathes new life into the original building, while the palazzo’s seductive chiaroscuro setting informs the genetics of the new one.
|Grand staircase with glass tunnel in the background|
|Temporary exhibits gallery|
|Composition with firestairs and walkway hanging system|
It is a ‘tight’ design that goes to the program’s needs, without any superfluous whims. Or as Klemmer told me, “There’s no ‘vanity’ in this project. All that is there is what was required. And Renzo does it without ever losing sight of making it beautiful and of its time.” Klemmer should know, having worked with Piano on many projects, including New York’s JP Morgan Library and the KimbellArt Musem in Fort Worth, currently in progress.
|Original indoor atrium at the palace|
With Stantec as architects of record for the project (managing the essential process of translating Renzo’s designs to reality) what RPBW accomplishes is to bring the museum back to what it was originally, clearing the carefully arranged palazzo to do what it was intended to when Isabella Gardner envisioned it. The addition gives the space it needed for the contemplative enjoyment of the collection as Mrs. Gardner wished, and creates space for the parallel activities of the museum. The design picks up where the palazzo left off. It extends and re-interprets its poetry, taking a cue from its Venetian dreams and applying its own magic. It enables the institution to bring forward its mission and meet the demands of cultural life in contemporary Boston.
Paul Clemence is an award-winning photographer whose work is part of many collections, including the Mies van der Rohe’s Archives and house by MoMa, New York. He exhibits both in the US and on the international fine art circuit, from classic B & W prints to large scale photo installations. A published author, his work can also be seen in major design and lifestyle publications. His “Architecture Photography” Facebook page (www.facebook.com/archi.photo) receives over half a million hits monthly.