This year, Williams College trumped rival Amherst in the spurious U.S. News & World Report college rankings, stealing the “#1 College” title from their neighbor to the east. Defending the crown is tough work, but an infusion of high-profile architecture can’t hurt: New York–based Steven Holl Architects announced today that they will design a master plan study for Williams’s Museum of Art and Art Department.Established in 1926, the Williams College Museum of Art has 14,000 pieces in its collection that range from antiquity to the present. It is a teaching museum, designed to give students firsthand access to major works of art. Steven Holl’s study for the museum and the Art Department is organized around five principles: Creating spaces for exhibiting and teaching art, connecting interior spaces with the campus, making the architecture contextual and complementary, harmonizing the visual arts with other arts on campus, and expanding the presence of the museum and the department on campus. Several on-campus sites are being considered for new buildings to expand the department’s footprint.
“Historically one of the most important launching institutions for museum leaders around the world, Williams College extends its dedication to excellence in art education with this new campus development phase,” said Steven Holl, in a statement.
Museum and education design is a well-worn path for the practice: Steven Holl has created facilities for Columbia University, MIT, and the Glasgow School of Art, among others. Currently, work in underway at Princeton University, the Kennedy Center, and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.
The master plan anchors Williams as a destination in the well-established Berkshires arts scene. The college is a mile from the Clark Art Institute, with its Tadao Ando–designed expansion. It’s also a fifteen minute drive from North Adams, home of MASS MoCA and two planned museums, The Global Contemporary Art Museum and The Extreme Model Railroad and Contemporary Architecture Museum, the latter two both designed by Gluckman Tang.