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UPDATE: March 26, 2010 - Construction crews work on excavating the site of a 300-space, below-grade parking garage, part of the Saint Louis Art Museum's 200,000-square-foot addition, which will be located east and south of the original 1904 building.
Saint Louis Art Museum Hosts Groundbreaking Ceremonies for Its Ambitious Expansion
(L - R) Saint Louis Art Museum Director Brent R. Benjamin and architect David Chipperfield discussed the Saint Louis Art Museum's 200,000-square-foot addition, as Jerry Sincoff, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, took a closer look at a model of the project on display in the Sculpture Hall.
by Betty Moore, SLFP.com
ST. LOUIS (SLFP.com), January 19, 2010 - One month after announcing that it was proceeding with with its ambitious $130.5 million expansion project, the Saint Louis Art Museum hosted a press conference in the Sculpture Hall, followed by official groundbreaking ceremonies on the construction site.
Museum Director Brent R. Benjamin beamed as he noted that this was the most exciting and ambitious expansion in the history of the Saint Louis Art Museum. "Throughout the expected two years of construction, the Art Museum is committed to remaining open and will continue to offer free general admissions, exhibitions, public and educational programs to our hundreds of thousands of annual visitors," he said.
Following the ceremonial groundbreaking on the construction site, Benjamin welcomed museum supporters and dignitaries to a reception, held in an enclosed, heated tent set up beneath the statue of Crusader King Louis IX. Guests enjoyed a champagne toast, hot chocolate, and a beautiful cake created in the image of the museum.
In an interview with Saint Louis Front Page, Benjamin emphasized that St. Louis is so fortunate to have one of the top ten comprehensive art museums in the country. "Many St. Louisans don't realize just how extraordinary a resource it is. We are thrilled to have the chance to expand the gallery space so that more of this great collection can be on view to the public at all times," he said enthusiastically.
Speaking fondly of the design process, London-based architect Sir David Chipperfield stated that the client, the museum curators, the oversight committee and the contractors all have to believe in the project and contribute to it. "A great collaboration was critical to formulating a good scheme and especially in giving good energy and direction to the project," he added.
London-based architect Sir David Chipperfield said, "The new building has to be respectful not only of the Cass Gilbert building but also respectful of its Forest Park setting which is really quite special."
As part of the project, the historic Cass Gilbert building will be improved. "This Cass Gilbert was a building of its period," observed Chipperfield. "It was also a building of a moment which was the 1904 World's Fair. It was built as a pavilion, not as a museum. So there are a lot of infrastructural weaknesses in there that we have to deal with."
"The new building has to be a building of its time and it shouldn't be embarrassed about being a contemporary building of the 21st century sitting next to a building of the early 20th century. At the same time, it has to be respectful not only of the Cass Gilbert building, but also respectful of the Forest Park setting which is really quite special," stated Chipperfield.
Chipperfield's design calls for an addition to the east and south of the original 1904 building with a dark, polished concrete façade, featuring skylights and a number of floor-to-ceiling windows to invite and provide views from both inside and outside.
The more than 200,000-square-foot addition will provide new galleries, public space, and a 300-space, below-grade parking garage, as well as a new, fully accessible entrance on Fine Arts Drive.
Architect Sir David Chipperfield joined Saint Louis Art Museum Director Brent R. Benjamin, St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and museum Board of Commissioners for the special groundbreaking ceremony on the site of the new expansion.
The Saint Louis Art Museum is one of the leading art museums with more than 100 galleries. The building was designed by famed architect Cass Gilbert as the Palace of Fine Arts for the 1904 World's Fair in Forest Park. Standing atop Art Hill, it is the "crown" jewel" of the 1,370-acre park. The Grand Basin is the lake at the foot of Art Hill and served as the focal point of the 1904 World's Fair.
The Museum's collections feature more than 30,000 art treasures from ancient times to the present. Highlights include art of the Renaissance, masterpieces of Impressionism, American European Art, Asian art, Period Rooms, the Egyptian mummy, and world-renowned collections of pre-Columbian and German Expressionist art.
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The Museum provided $10 million for improvements to Art Hill and nearby areas including: reconstruction of Fine Arts Drive in the front of the Museum between the front stairway and the statue of St. Louis; the street and the area around the landmark statue is now paved with granite; construction of two curved, tree-lined walkways, or promenades, extending about 250 yards in each direction from the statue of St. Louis to the existing circular parking areas; construction of scenic overlooks near the expanded circular parking areas; landscaping of the two promenades and of the entire area with ornamental trees and decorative lighting; and new parking adjacent to the scenic overlooks.
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