The museum or cultural centre has the power to become a very strong social focus in the community. In extending the Joslyn Art Museum and addressing its external spaces so that they could work for outdoor events, this project aimed not only to bring the old building and its environment back to life, but also to create something that was more than the sum of its parts.
Completed in 1931, the Joslyn is one of the finest Art Deco buildings in America. The brief for a new wing called for over 5,000 square metres of gallery and workshop space, together with the limited refurbishment of the existing building. The Joslyn is unusual among North America’s arts venues in combining art and music in one complex, with a 1,200-seat concert hall flanked on each side by two narrow floors of art galleries.
Analysis showed that the main entrance, with its classical portico reached by a majestic, if forbidding, flight of stone steps, was being underused as most visitors entered the building by a side door next to the car-park. The challenge was to re-emphasise the public front of the Museum and design a new wing that did not detract from the clarity of the original concept.
Clad in matching pink Etowah Fleuri marble from the Georgian quarry that supplied the original building, the new wing adopts a solid, unarticulated form with similar proportions to the existing Museum. Linking the new and old wings, and set back from both, a glass atrium forms a new social space, providing restaurant facilities and a secondary public entrance.
On the main level of the new wing are temporary exhibition galleries, lit from above by indirect, controlled daylight. The floor below comprises storage vaults, workshops, cloakrooms, a kitchen and a restaurant servery. At the front of the Museum, the original access road and car park were reinstated to reinforce the principal axis and encourage use of the original entrance. In front of the building there is space for an open-air amphitheatre – a venue for summer concerts – which would broaden the range of the Joslyn’s activities and give it a yet stronger community attraction.
“We’re finally getting – after decades – a facility that enables us to do what we do now, only better, and do more, and do it according to the strictest professional standards.”Graham Beal, Director of the Josyln Art Museum, quoted in The Omaha World Herald, 13 November 1994
“Inside the architect has let lose. Spaces spar, Visitors catch their breath in astonishment as they enter the 45-foot-high glass atrium connecting the old and new buildings, or descend the great staircase to the new galleries, where curved vaults dramatically float above the rooms like giant seagulls.”John E Schloder, current Director of the Museum, Joslyn Art Museum: A building History, 1997
“Foster has taught an elementary lesson here about the value of deference and dignity, continuity and contextualism, the power of Modernism and the power of understatement. No need for histrionics when you’re already at centre stage. He who speaks softly can still emit a big bang.”Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune. 27 November 1995
Construction start: 1993
Area: 5 800 m²
Client: Joslyn Art Museum
Collaborating Architect: Henningson, Durham & Richardson
Structural Engineer: Local Architect and Engineers: Henningson, Durham & Richardson
Quantity Surveyor: Davis Langdon & Everest
Lighting Engineer: Claude Engle Lighting
Additional Consultants: R. F. Mahoney and Associates, Tom Morrow Associates Inc