Modern Art Museum, Fort WorthEdit profile
Our proposal was selected as the result of an international design competition held in 1997. The site is located in one part of an urban park in the suburbs of Forth Worth, Texas, adjacent to Louis Kahn’s masterpiece, the Kimbell Art Museum. The Kimbell Art Museum should be described as a modern classic, and the points at issue were what kind of relationship could be made with the new art museum, and what kind of character should be given to such a vast site. I also wished to attempt a dialogue with Kahn, and thereby extract a spatial essence comprising a strong simplicity and clarity with which to imbue the new building. Furthermore, for this large site, I conceived the concept of an “art forest” in which there is no distinction between interior and exterior, so the art may be sensed wherever you are.
The natural environment of Fort Worth is harsh, with no forests or ponds, and with some exaggeration it could be described as having the severity of a desert. Here we wanted to makes spaces with abundant greenery and water for people and art.
This led to a composition of five rectangular solids in a row, each with a double-layer structure of a bare concrete box enclosed by glass, within a forest surrounded by water and greenery. We prepared an environment surrounded by water and greenery by first making a wide water garden in the eastern part of the site, and placing a forest in front of the busy traffic intersection. The double-layer rectangular solids were arrayed parallel, comprising two longer public space blocks and the three shorter exhibition space blocks, each of bare concrete boxes enclosed by glass.
I wished to create an architecture of unprecedented charm using only glass and concrete, two materials that represent the 20th century. Wrapping glass around concrete enhances the transparency of the glass. Conversely, the glass shell mitigates the massive materiality of concrete in the strong form of the rectangular solid, giving a light and gentle impression to the surroundings. The stable material of concrete protects the artworks from the harsh climate of Fort Worth. By adding glass boxes, the direct influence of the exterior climate on the exhibition room interiors is reduced, and so the safety of the artworks can be improved. The space created between the glass and concrete shells is outdoor as well as indoor space, similar to a Japanese engawa (veranda). Water, greenery, and light are taken into the interiors, whereas from outside the appearance of the exhibition rooms can be followed through the glass. Although the overall composition is simple, diverse plans and volumes have been prepared for the exhibition spaces inside by placing double-layer shell-structure rectangular volumes in a row, and introducing several types of natural lighting systems.
In addition to its purposes of art appreciation and research, this museum will be open to ordinary citizens, becoming a nucleus of the community. While constantly aware of the artworks that dot the site, concerts, outdoor parties, festivals, or similar events may be enjoyed in the outdoor lawn plaza and water garden.
As an art museum open to people in the truest meaning, it is my hope that this place will serve to enhance the imaginative powers of people, both now and in the future, as an oasis that gives moisture to the harsh climate of this environment.
Renzo Piano is now planning an addition to the Kimbell Art Museum, and its completion will further strengthen the relationship between Louis Kahn’s Kimbell Art Museum and the Forth Worth Art Museum, and overall it will increasingly take on its role as the heart of the cultural life of the people of Fort Worth.Tadao