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Presenting the Piano Pavilion

Jan 20, 2014 10:23AM ● Published by Anonymous

Kimbell Art Museum unveils dynamic new building

For four decades, the Kimbell building has left its own impression on visitors, garnering arguably more fame than priceless works of art it housed. Designed by the great Louis I. Kahn, the museum comprised several vaulted buildings containing a natural-light system that bathed the upper art galleries in an ethereal light — a system without peer in the history of architecture.

But as imposing as the museum’s exterior might seem, it lacked the space necessary to serve the growing number of visitors and to show the museum’s expanding permanent collection. Fort Worth art lovers and leaders have long pondered the Kimbell question: How to expand a cultural treasure given that the building it is housed in is a work of art itself?

The leaders of the Kimbell approached famed architect Renzo Piano to see if he would be up to the task. He had built a strong reputation for building on existing work with respect to the original, having designed acclaimed extensions and additions for other famed buildings. Yet rather than design such an expansion or addition, he opted to create an entirely new building. The $137 million Piano Pavilion, home to the Kimbell’s Asian Art collection as well as visiting collections, opened to the public late last year.

Above ground, the building sits opposite the front of the original building but is obscured by elm trees. It appears to be two buildings linked by a glass-enclosed walkway, topped by a light-filtering lattice. The visible buildings, however, are just one-quarter of the whole structure; the rest is buried underground. Ensuring the 100,000-square-foot building did not impose on Kahn’s work was only one motivation for this subsurface move; the other was to create a sustainable building that utilized fewer resources.

The natural-light filters on the roof capture the sunlight in such a way to create even lighting throughout the exhibition spaces. The roof contains not only solar panels to provide electricity for the building but also a sod feature that collects rainwater for the building’s non-potable needs.

Visitors can enjoy the two buildings in dialogue, visiting the expanded installation of the museum’s permanent collection or by taking in the current travelling exhibition: The Age of Picasso and Matisse, Modern Masters from the Art Institute of Chicago, on display until Feb. 16.

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