Walker Art Center, Expansion
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Project 1999-2002, realization 2003-2005

For the Walker Art Center Expansion, the client – represented by Director Kathy Halbreich and Chief Curator Richard Flood – did not aim simply to increase the exhibition area, like so many other museums did in the nineties, but primarily to give the public more room, more room for urban living inspired by the variety and richness of contemporary art.

The Walker Art Center (WAC), as one of the most progressive poles for the transmission of contemporary art, is indeed a "center" and not just a "museum." Its name is an agenda, which is why plans for expansion also include more leeway for electronic media and the performing arts. The intention of the museum and the trustees to enhance urban life at the WAC is especially meaningful and necessary because there is essentially no street life in Minneapolis, due not only to the city's climate but also to the Skyway system of elevated pedestrian walkways.

Initial planning therefore targeted a repositioning of the WAC in relation to existing urban infrastructures. The demolition of the Guthrie Theater will make room for a larger Sculpture Garden, the main entrance will be moved around Vineland Place (back) to Hennepin Avenue, and a second tower will complement the existing tower by Edward Barnes, while also establishing a visual link with the downtown skyline as well as the church spires along Hennepin Avenue.

This second tower is essential not only as an urban landmark; it also expresses the increased importance of the performing arts in the WAC program. Inside the tower there will be a theater encased in a balcony-like, three-story zone for the audience, somewhat like a down-sized version of the Scala in Milan or the open-air Globe theater of Shakespeare's day. This audience zone can also be used as an exhibition area for all kinds of art installations. Pictorial and performing arts can be interwoven here in entirely unexpected and innovative ways. The architecture thus fosters an intensification of the various activities with a view to the targeted urbanism of the new WAC.

We wanted to generate a similar intensification and blend of urban energies on the street level. Here, in contrast to the solid brick of the existing building, the walls are completely glazed, which will allow direct eye contact between the busy thoroughfare of Hennepin Avenue, the new interior of the WAC, and the new enlarged Sculpture Garden. This glazed street level running parallel to the slightly angled street will function like a "Town Square" open to everyone as a meeting point, a place to exchange information and news or to have a cup of coffee. People can also circulate here without going to an exhibition or attending an event.

The new exhibitions spaces will be freely arranged within this glazed public area so that the "Town Square" will include cozier spaces, like side streets or alley ways. This loose arrangement of galleries is a necessary modification of and addition to the rigid shape of the existing brick tower, which looks today like a pragmatic version of Wright's Guggenheim Museum. Edward Barnes' gallery concept along with his choice of materials, especially the terrazzo floors, have clearly stood the test of time and ensured remarkable curatorial freedom. We have therefore given special consideration to the connections between the two areas and to visitor orientation, and placed great emphasis on circulation within the existing and the new sequence of rooms. Which rooms are to be entered first? Where is the permanent collection, where are the exhibitions, and why? How flexible should definitions be in terms of later use?

On looking at the new WAC from outside, one is immediately struck by the huge, irregular windows. They look accidental but are homologous forms, showing a kinship in value and structure, somewhat like the shapes of a silhouette cutting. The papery appearance of the façade – also resembling a silhouette – consists of panels, which can simply be folded up along the slanted edges of the openings. Fragile and papery cladding will also be used for the inside of the theater, with its stud-wall construction so typical of US-American buildings that it is the inevitable fate of every architect.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2001


This project was developed in collaboration with an architect licensed in the state of Minnesota acting as the "Architect of Record". Herzog & de Meuron is not licensed to practice architecture in the state of Minnesota.

Herzog & de Meuron Team:

Partners: Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron, Christine Binswanger
Project Managers: Thomas Gluck, Charles Stone
Project Team: Nandini Bagchee, Carlos Bautista, Sarah Cremin, Andrzej Egli, Raphael Forny, Nahyun Hwang, Adrian Kast, Martin Krapp, Rebecca Lowry, Florian Marti, Roberto de Oliveira, Peter Sigrist, Heeri Song, Mathis Tinner, Thomas de Vries

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, USA

Architect of Record: Hammel, Green and Abrahmson, Minneapolis, USA
Landscape Design: Michel Desvigne, Paris, France
General Contractor: M.A, Mortensen, Minneapolis, USA
Structural, Mechanical, Electrical, Civil Engineering: Hammel, Green and Abrahmson, Minneapolis, USA
Façade: FRONT, New York, USA
Lighting: Isometrix Lighting + Design, London, UK
Acoustics: Kirkegaard Associates, Chicago, USA
Theatre: FDA. Fisher Dachs Associates, New York, USA
Traffic: Hammel, Green and Abrahmson, Minneapolis, USA
Signage Concept and Design: Walker Art Center: Andrew Blauvelt, Minneapolis, USA; Pentagram, New York, USA
Audio/Visual Engineering: Kirkegaard Associates, Chicago, USA
Audio/Visual Installation: SPL Integrated Solutions, St. Paul, USA, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, USA
Video Projectors: Sharp Electronics Corporation, Mahwah, USA
Synchronization and Animation: Dataton AB, Linköping, Sweden
Motion Graphics: Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, USA

Building Data:
Site Area: 16,000sqm / 172,220sqft
Gross Floor Area: Expansion: 10,200sqm / 110,000sqft; Existing: 12,100sqm / 130,000sqft
Footprint: Expansion: 4,090sqm / 43,960sqft; Existing: 1,720sqm / 18,480sqft

- 250ft long glass wall along Hennepin Ave.
- 120 x 100 x 70ft high tower cantilevered out towards the street of Hennepin Ave, which is clad in custom stamped aluminum metal mesh
- Doubling of the amount of gallery space
- Newly located 1,500sqft (460sqm) library space retrofitted into an old gallery
- New 350 seat multidisciplinary performing arts studio
- 85 seat destination restaurant cantilevered out towards Hennepin Ave.
- 3,000sqft (912sqm) events space with downtown city views that can be rented out to the community
- Sequence of roof terraces that mimics the townsquare circulation below and ties into the existing spiral of terraces
- 3 acre landscaped garden that extends the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden southward
- Subterranean 650 car parking ramp buried under the new Garden design providing access directly to the facility as well as the adjacent community


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