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When Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened in 2011, the building designed to house the collection was one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture ever built in Bentonville. In fact, some would argue that it was one of the most beautiful things to see at a museum that was full of beautiful things.
Fans of the sweeping glass and timber structures will be delighted to learn the museum has this week announced plans for an expansion of the current facilities. The new construction will add nearly 100,000 square feet to the 200,000 square foot structure, creating more space to showcase a growing collection and more opportunities to welcome visitors to, as their press release says, “experience the power of art in an inclusive environment.” The expansion will provide increased capacity for art and exhibitions, educational and outreach initiatives, cultural programming, and community events.
“It’s wonderful to see how our community, our region, and travelers to Bentonville from across the nation and around the world have embraced Crystal Bridges and enjoyed the experience of being surrounded by art, nestled in nature, and immersed in Moshe Safdie’s architecture,” said Walton, Crystal Bridges founder and board chairperson.
“With the number of visitors we welcome annually, it’s timely to enlarge our building and make sure more people can access these offerings. Having Safdie Architects expand on its original Crystal Bridges design with this new addition will create a unified experience for enjoying art, nature, and architecture.”
The expansion will be managed by the same architecture firm that oversaw the original construction, Safdie Architects. They are known around the world for design that defies gravity and would never be mistaken for just another office building or housing complex. New spaces will house additional galleries, educational facilities, event spaces, a café, and new indoor and outdoor gathering spaces. Extending the long-term partnership between Crystal Bridges and Safdie Architects, the design continues the deep integration of art, architecture, and nature that has become synonymous with Crystal Bridges.
The project is currently in the design development phase with construction commencing in early 2022 with the goal of completing construction in 2024. If you’ve visited recently, you may have noticed some work already being undertaken around the main lobby and courtyard. This work, a precursor to the expansion, is also designed by Safdie Architects and will be completed in May 2021, just in time for a ten-year anniversary celebration.
On the museum website, Moshe Safdie is described as an architect who is committed to architecture that supports and enhances a project’s program; that is informed by the geographic, social, and cultural elements that define a place; and that responds to human needs and aspirations. In this vein, and complementing existing design elements, the expansion will add to the collection of elegant pavilions nestled into the sloping landscape. Continued use of regional materials such as concrete, timber, and ﬁeldstone are sourced from Northwest Arkansas and celebrate the region’s craft traditions. New interior/exterior connections throughout the project create links between the galleries and program spaces and the surrounding park and trails.
The relationship between the building and its natural surroundings promotes an accessible experience that expresses Crystal Bridges’ vision of creating an environment of inclusion and belonging. Design highlights include:
Information and images included in this story were provided by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
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