The museum or cultural centre has the power to become a 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 retrofit 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 a 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 primary 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.