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Foster + Partners renovates the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach

The Norton Museum of Art’s new Kenneth C. Griffin Building, designed by Foster + Partners, as seen from South Dixie Highway (Nigel Young)

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.

Photo of the entrance to the renovated Norton Museum of Art

For the redesign of the Norton Museum of Art, Norman Foster drew inspiration from an existing Banyan tree and Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Typewriter Eraser, Scale X sculpture, a 1999 iteration of an earlier work. (Nigel Young)

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.

Photo of the garden at the renovated Norton Museum of Art

The Pamela and Robert B. Goergen Garden occupies what used to be a parking lot and the museum’s former entrance. The new outdoor space, Foster’s first public garden project, hosts different sculptures. (Nigel Young)

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.

Photo of the garden at the renovated Norton Museum of Art

The Pamela and Robert B. Goergen Garden and the adjoining promenade (Nigel Young)

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.

Photo of a gallery at the renovated Norton Museum of Art

Installation view of the museum’s main galleries (Nigel Young)

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.

Photo of the interior of the renovated Norton Museum of Art

The Norton Museum of Art’s new Ruth and Carl Shapiro Great Hall currently features Pae White’s 40-foot-by-15-foot Eikón tapestry. (Nigel Young)

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.

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