As I wrote yesterday, my tour of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was part of a invitational visit for design bloggers. As we leave the original building and travel over to the new wing, we are transported from the Venetian inspired former residence into the modern world. The light filled glass and steel structure was built with an obvious nod to the future. One of the first museums in the country to incorporate a geo-thermal heating and cooling system, the builders also employed local and regional materials and installed an efficient watering system into the landscape. Daylight streams throughout the new space.
photo via Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Matt Montgomery, Director of Marketing and Comminications for the Gardener Museum spoke about the architectural features of the Renzo Piano wing. Understanding Piano’s vision for the building was key to bringing two very diverse structures together and comprehending how they could live harmoniously side by side. As Montgomery explained, the brick structure of the old building wraps around and protects the treasures housed within, the surprise is revealed once you enter the space. The new wing is by contrast, a purposeful space, open, full of light, made of glass and steel. Piano respected the existing architecture, and rather than competing with it, built a new wing full of functional spaces to relieve the pressure on the older building, with a nod to the future. The only connection from old to new is a glass corridor, an umbilical cord, connecting to receive life from the original building.
The concert hall has an intricate wall system to allow the acoustics to shine during a concert. Single rows of seating line the balconies, and since the performance stage is in the middle of the floor, every seat has a unique vantage point. Egg carton like ceilings insure the reverberation of sound. Curtains behind the wall panels allow for further control of the performance, and can be opened or closed depending on the type of concert. An exciting part of the evening was learning that the travels journals of Mrs. Gardner are available to peruse on line. If you are captivated by wanderlust like I am, these documents are a fascinating look into her trips taken from 1867-1906. The scrapbooks are filled with ephemera, flowers and photography and have a direct correlation to the collections in the museum.
M.K. Wong, buyer and Manager of Gift at the Gardner highlighted the current display in the shop and how it blends with Mrs. Gardner’s collections. International in flavor with an accent on travel, Gift is not the typical museum store. Curiosity cabinets invite the visitor to explore within, much like the archive rooms filled with hidden displays. Turkish candles with hand carved surfaces, Indian bells, and unusual journals all evoke the current theme of Wanderlust.
Modern greenhouses line the side of the building. Used as exhibition and educational space, they are an energy efficient modern home for the rotating collection of plants used in the spectacular central courtyard.
This preservation and expansion of the Museum insures that the updated project will continue Mrs. Gardner’s legacy and enhance the growth for this center of creativity into the future. Make sure to put a visit to this unique museum on your summer agenda. And if time permits, I highly recommend the Gardner After Hours. To see the light captured in the courtyard with the setting sun is remarkable. A big thank you to all of the welcoming staff that made the evening so enjoyable!