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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Photo Essay: Kimbell Piano Pavilion

West Wing
After days of freezing rain, the sun comes out 11.26.2013

View of the original Kimbell building designed by L. Kahn from the new Piano Pavilion lobby

Piano elegantly frames Fort Worth history—The Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum and its allée elms

The Kimbell's Kahn Building the night of the Piano Pavilion Grand Opening Party 11.24.2013

What was once architectural silence, the lawn is now a space where Piano weaves the sacred (art viewing) with the profane (socializing). 

Friday, November 22, 2013

The New Kimbell Building Shows Much Respect to Beauty and What Came Before

View of original Kimbell building from the new pavilion.

I pulled my car into the Kimbell Art Museum's sparkling monochromatic underground parking garage. The museum's Renzo Piano Pavilion opened to members this morning, and after months of research I'm afire. 

Talk about whether this building will complicate or take away from the original Kimbell Art Museum designed by Kahn have swirled internationally for years—whether the green space that once represented silence will be ruined, whether the jewel box masterpiece actually needed to grow, and why one should augment something that is considered a perfect work of architecture. I grew up close to this museum and was distraught when they erected the ugly tarp and dug into the sacred lawn I once sat by myself and sketched the allée elms or read philosophy texts. 

After three years of digging the tarp is gone, and much of the green space intact. I jump into the transparent, glass elevator, float onto the lawn facing the Kahn building, exit outside, turn left and enter the pavilion. It is the Friday before Thanksgiving, drizzly and 34 degrees outside. This seasonal weather becomes a part of the pavilion because of its transparent nature. Architects' (of museums) most powerful tool is their use of natural light. It's organic, ever-changing, and the best way to view artwork. How they translate that light determines the success of their building. It also determines the atmosphere of the building. Today the sun is dimmed by freezing drizzle. The artificial light is soft and warms the galleries. The balance is delicate and light.  

And the Kahn building looks stunning from here. Before now, I never stood on the lawn 65 yards across the Kimbell and looked at it. I never knew that was the intended original entrance as so many Fort Worth natives do not. The Renzo Pavilion offers a new vista onto the lawn and the Kahn building. 

The ceilings of the lobby are high bringing my eyes up toward the glass roof. The windows throughout frame various aspects of the cultural district, but the front lobby's glass wall perfectly framed the Kahn building—the star of the cultural show in Fort Worth. The concrete walls looked like melted white chocolate, so subtly smooth behind the powerful paintings that grip their audience. Here a rapport between a patron and the artwork can easily form. Flirting comes easy. 

Walking deeper into the south gallery, I notice a floor to ceiling window framed the Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum. It is as if the architect says, I didn’t forget that you’ve been standing there for
nearly 80 years. Walking into the underground east gallery, I see yet another framed view of the same memorial, but this time with one of the allée elms planted in 1936 to line a street that once jutted out of the coliseum's main entrance. The street was removed when Kahn’s building broke ground in the 60s, but the allée elms remained.

I couldn’t help but smile thinking of Renzo Piano’s thoughtfulness and sincerity.

It’s these polite gestures that create the “conversation” between buildings. They speak through nods, winks, and deference. Some conversations are arrogant, some are cowardly, but this one is polite.

Renzo also speaks to the architect of Fort Worth’s Modern Art Museum, Tadao Ando, through his concrete walls. Renzo visited one of Ando’s latest projects in Italy and admired the silky texture, so he brought it here using the same technique (more about that later).

Click here to read my article in Fort Worth, Texas magazine about how he speaks directly to the Kahn building.

Framing history

An acoustic guitar plays in the pavilion's new auditorium with Renzo's signature red chairs made from Australian wool.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Kimbell Art Museum Expansion Project is Complete!

The Kimbell Art Museum Piano Pavilion will open to the public this week after three years of construction. As a father would do upon arrival of his newborn child, architect Renzo Piano rushed to Fort Worth to nurture, protect and proudly present his latest architectural feat.

Piano said if the original Kimbell building designed by Louis Kahn was an introvert with its windows facing interior courtyards, then his new pavilion is an extrovert with its windows forming walls to the lawn and life buzzing outside. Hence the name, pavilion. A pavilion is traditionally a short distance from the main building where people escape and find relaxation.

Piano said his building is an open and inviting building where people can meet, hear music, participate in classes or view art, in his talk A Conversation with Renzo Piano Nov. 19 in Fort Worth's Will Roger's Memorial Coliseum. Piano has a history if mixing the sacred and profane, which he does with this building. The profane are the areas the public uses socially, and the sacred is the metaphysical experience of viewing art. He said  in an interview with KERA's Krys Boyd that this new building is not about growth, rather he is adding something new, which is the aforementioned space for public use. A large foyer acts as a meeting place. And the lawn that was once an open silent space is now closed forming a room between the two buildings and yet another space for social use.

I plan to talk to area architects about their reaction to the new building. Piano said our perspective of the building will change over time. As it becomes a part of our daily ritual it becomes more a part of our home. I will also be going on a member-only tour today and will write about that later! I find all of this so exciting! More to come...

Read all about the international conversation surrounding this expansion project by clicking link below. After all, I wrote it!

Link to story: KAM Expansion by Jocelyn Tatum

On the construction site for interviews.