Frank Gehry’s Weisman Art Museum finally getting expansion, nicknameShare
When I finally began to formulate comprehensible ideas about architecture (am I assuming too much?), the University of Minnesota’s Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum struck me as a building conceived by a genius who, despite limitations imposed by computational powers equivalent to Windows’ Paintbrush, designed a daring and captivating mass of contorted colors that broke through the red brick monotony of its campus surroundings.
It didn’t age as well as I’d hoped, however. As titanium descendants such as Spain’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall were completed, the Weisman appeared increasingly primitive - which was fitting, in light of its patriarchal status as the first project boasting Frank Gehry’s unique approach to metal cladding and explosive external forms.
But its lovable appeal for being the “first” of something so spectacularly successful only went so far; folks on campus had to live with the museum’s shortcomings, which included (1) a one-dimensionality that front-loaded the visual might of the building envelope, (2) an awkward and ironically opaque homage to Minnesota’s red-brick campus in the form of a a blank, red-brick backside and (3) poorly-lit exhibition spaces that were rarely allowed to bask in light supplied by the lofty, artwork-damaging, skylights…
…just a couple issues which make the Weisman’s upcoming renovation/expansion particularly exciting (Gehry is partnering with HGA Architects on the project, which will be finished in 2011). Apart from doubling exhibition space, opening a cafe, and adding a collaborative studio wing underwritten by a ubiquitous corporate sponsor, the expansion will finally rectify the Weisman’s lack of harmony with the heart of Minnesota’s East Bank campus by connecting the additions to the building’s eastern facade and increasing the permeability of the northern facade, which 20,000 people walk by on a daily basis.
Oh, the Weisman is also finally taking advantage of its name’s fortuitous acronym, WAM, which will make for an appealing new public identity. Re-branding can backfire (badly), but I think “WAM” has a nice, irreverent vibe to it - certainly appropriate for a college art museum.
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