At the reopening of the renovated Norton Museum of Art earlier this month, Norman Foster revealed his two points of inspiration for the project: an existing banyan fig tree and Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen‘s Typewriter Eraser, Scale X sculpture from 1999. Both elements were crucial to the architect’s intuitive redesign and reorientation of the museum’s entrance. The new west-facing forecourt features a 43-foot-high metal canopy with a scalloped cutout that cuts around the towering tree. Within the shaded hollow the overhang creates, an embedded reflecting pool surrounds the massive sculpture. This careful approach carries through the entire project.
Rather than create another statement-piece museum where the architecture steals the show, Foster + Partners opted for a contextual approach that spotlights the Norton’s vast collection. Adding over 12,000 square feet to the original 1941 Art Deco building, the firm introduced a 210-seat auditorium, the museum’s first restaurant, and additional gallery spaces. Major extensions include the new 3,600-square-foot, double-height Ruth and Carl Shapiro Great Hall, featuring a unique concave skylight.
The 150-foot-long, glass-walled Ira and Nicki Harris Family Gallery extends from the former south-facing entrance. This addition flanks a covered promenade and a new sculpture garden. Occupying what was originally the Norton Museum of Art’s main 20,000-square-foot parking lot, the green space is Foster’s first ever public landscape project. The sculpture garden divides into two curated “rooms.” Native plant species were spread throughout to highlight the museum’s subtropical surroundings.
Foster + Partners’ renovation blends new and old components with a minimalistic, all white, stone facade. The firm also restored the museum’s existing galleries and six historic artist residence homes, located nearby. The redesign champions historic architectural detailing while also introducing large light-filled voids.
The overall reprogramming of the space mirrors the Norton Museum of Art’s curatorial vision; some of the museum’s key historical collections are dispersed between temporary shows. The museum places emphasis on exhibiting female, African-American, and living artists.
The Norton Museum of Art officially reopened on February 9. This unveiling is only the first milestone in a 20-year masterplan that Foster + Partners has conceived for the museum.