CHARLES GWATHMEY, FAIAGWATHMEY SIEGEL & ASSOCIATES ARCHITECTS
For an architect, the museum building is the ultimate project. It engages the past, present, and future, establishing and enriching the critical dialogue between art and architecture. It is the bridge, the connector, the extender, literally and philosophically, of the cultural legacy and the continuum. The museum is the accessor and the instigator to discovery.
Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects
It is unique in many ways, but in the beginning it was the institutional vision that made it different. The goal was to create an environment that was simultaneously an engagement of architecture, landscape, and art. All three elements were to be totally integrated and in dialogue with one another. It was to be a holistic environment that was committed to these three art forms.
The project was to include a building in which to house an art collection, and also areas for several outdoor sculptures. Given the size of the property, the strategy of siting the buildings and integrating the sculpture through the vehicular and pedestrian sequence was crucial. Our solution was to allow the site to unfold in a series of fragmented views. Upon entering through the front gate, the visitor passes an allée of maple trees and then a second "gate" created by two monumental sculptures: Tony Smith's Smug (1973/2005) and Richard Serra's Contour 290 (2004). Then the sequence continues toward the pond, which reflects the façade of the main building as well as Serra's Sylvester (2001), but not all of it. These fragments generate moments of revelation and expectation as the visitor moves through the site.
In my opinion, the greatest success of this project is the site plan, in that there is not a moment when the visitor is not experiencing architecture, sculpture, and landscape recombined in various ways. They never overwhelm or contradict one another in a perceptual dialogue. At the same time it is very serene and resolved. Louis Kahn, who had the ability to make quiet space, once said, "Inspiration is the feeling of the beginning at the threshold where Silence and Light meet." You would think all the asymmetry and dynamics of everything going on here would create just the opposite, but it doesn't.
It varied, but in the case of Serra's Sylvester (2001), siting was part of the early stages. When we designed the main building, we knew there was a preexisting bridge that led visitors around to the entrance. It was clear that this Serra would appear after the bridge and anchor the beginning of the arrival sequence. It goes back to the theme of the dialogue between architecture and art.
Palladio was a landscape architect and an architect. For him, landscape and architecture were simultaneous, and that is what we wanted to accomplish. Peter Walker has extraordinary respect for architecture and shares my view that landscape is integral to the whole experience. It was his idea to change the contours of the property and to make the site sequential, which is how I talk about architecture and how he talks about his landscape. Reinforcing these two layers and consolidating the planting to create rhythm and variation were all important to him.