Public Opinion Keeps BIG’s Kimball Art Center Renovation on Hold

Architecture Newsletter West
(Courtesy BIG)

BIG’s log cabin design for the Kimball Art Center is in limbo after being received by an unimpressed public. (Courtesy BIG)

Despite winning the Kimball Art Center renovation commission in February of last year, Bjarke Ingels Group’s design proposal is far from beginning construction in Park City, Utah. After a seven-member jury of officials, architects, and a Park City resident chose the BIG museum revamp from a shortlist of designs from several prominent firms, the public made their dissatisfaction clear. The building is on hold and without community approval it will continue to sit in stasis for an indeterminable amount of time.

(Courtesy BIG)

The proposed tower would rise to 80 feet in its historic Park City site. (Courtesy BIG)

Rendered as a twisted timber box, BIG’s transformed Kimball Art Center is a “highly-evolved log cabin at an unprecedented scale.” Its wood construction alludes to the building materials used by miners, the area’s first settlers, and the proposed 80-foot height is congruent with an iconic heritage monument that once stood near the site.

These architectural intentions do not appease nor appeal to Park City residents. Scott Iwasaki of “The Park Record” reported that some neighbors have complained BIG’s design does not fit with its historic locale while others are worried the tall structure will decrease surrounding property values. Concerns have been so severe that the art gallery’s Board of Directors chose not to submit the plan for a city review, the first step in building construction approval, even after the jury spent six months deliberating a design competition winner. The Board did make a pre-application to Park City’s Historic District Design Review, although this will have no effect on the status of the eventual renovation.

Their next move, however, is uncertain. Repeating the competition process for a new design is an option, Kimball Art Center Chairman Matt Mullin said but its subsequent timeline extension would not be ideal. The renovation is meant to provide space to expand the Kimball’s art education classes and until the Park City community is content with the design, its present pause will endure.

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