Herzog & de Meuron Basel Ltd.
4056 Basel, Switzerland
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
In a premodern theater like the Scala, audiences are immersed in the events on stage.
The original Walker Art Center of 1927, the 1940 extension and the 1971 building.
The prairie with lakes, expressway, sculpture garden and city as points of reference.
Sketches showing ideas for a dialogue between the existing building and the extension. In search of a suitable form and surface finish for the new tower, the possibilities of textile qualities, planar volumes, crinkling and cut-outs are explored.
Instead of a flat, spiral alignment of galleries, the interim space is emphasized.
The exhibition rooms are housed in two volumes that appear to have been cast like dice into the urban space of the connecting tract between the two towers.
Ornamental design of the transitions between galleries and interim spaces.
Models and production of the crinkling effect using different types of sheet metal.
Two- and three-dimensional development and systematization of the folds and crinkles of the completed facade.
The polygonal body of the new tower is clad with metal panels, while the textile element is reiterated in the leaf ornaments of the auditorium and interim spaces.
The Walker between expressway, park and churches. Auditorium with theater boxes.
Nooks and crannies, stairways, niches and pathways between the galleries and facade as an urban space embellished with lamps of rough glass. Restaurant and event space.
The exhibition spaces are very low-key and achieve a sense of continuity by echoing the ceilings and the pale terrazzo flooring of the Barnes galleries.
- Project Team
- Thomas Gluck (Project Architect, Project Manager)
- Charles Stone (Project Architect, Project Manager)
- 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
- 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.
- Architect of Record: Hammel, Green and Abrahmson, Minneapolis, USA
- Lead Design Architect: Herzog & de Meuron, Basel, Switzerland
- Architect of Record: Hammel, Green and Abrahmson, Minneapolis, USA
- Landscape Architect: Michel Desvigne, Paris, France
- General Contractor: M.A, Mortensen, Minneapolis, USA
- Structural Engineering: Hammel, Green and Abrahmson, Minneapolis, USA
- Mechanical Engineering: Hammel, Green and Abrahmson, Minneapolis, USA
- Electrical Engineering: Hammel, Green and Abrahmson, Minneapolis, USA
- Specialist / Consulting
- Acoustics Consulting: Kirkegaard Associates, Chicago, USA
- Civil Engineering: Hammel, Green and Abrahmson, Minneapolis, USA
- Facade Consulting: FRONT, New York, USA
- Lighting Consulting: Isometrix Lighting + Design, London, UK
- Theater Consulting: FDA. Fisher Dachs Associates, New York, USA
- Traffic Consulting: Hammel, Green and Abrahmson, Minneapolis, USA
- Signage Concept and Design: Walker Art Center: Andrew Blauvelt, Minneapolis, USA
- Video Projectors: Sharp Electronics Corporation, Mahwah, USA
- Signage Concept and Design: Pentagram, New York, USA
- Synchronization and Animation: Dataton AB, Linköping, Sweden
- Motion Graphics: Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, USA
- Audio/Visual Engineering: Kirkegaard Associates, Chicago, USA
- Audio/Visual Installation: SPL Integrated Solutions, St. Paul, USA
- Audio/Visual Installation: Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, USA
- Building Data
- Site Area: 172'222 sqft, 16'000 sqm
- Gross floor area (GFA): 109'996 sqft, 10'219 sqm
- Footprint: 43'959 sqft, 4'084 sqm
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