Taking Measures


Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

New Design Creates More of a People Place

Saint Paul Pioneer Press


If you were asked to draw up list of words to describe the architecture of the original Walker Art Center, which opened in 1971 in Minneapolis, here are some that might occur to you: formal, solemn, rational, tasteful. One word that would never come to mind, however, is "fun."

With its unyielding purple brick walls and blinding white interiors, the Walker, designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes, is a stark temple devoted to the religion of high modernism, done in such excruciatingly refined good taste that all the vital life seems drained out of it.

Now, however, the Walker is ready to open a spectacular addition that can best be described as everything Barnes' tomblike building is not.

Designed by the Swiss architectural firm of Herzog and de Meuron with Hammel, Green and Abrahamson of Minneapolis, the 130,000-square-foot addition set to open next Sunday is a hip, exuberant work that seems to be having way more fun than any local building in recent memory.

Its forms are certainly eye-catching. The new wing attaches to the older portion of the Walker via a long, low, glassy lobby along Hennepin Avenue, then abruptly rises into a mesh-clad, irregular lump perforated with windows of varying sizes and shape.

The lump already has inspired all manner of metaphor it has been likened to everything from an ice cube to a crumpled box and at first glance, it looks wildly irrational. In fact, it's so carefully conceived that the architects ran computer programs to make sure its embossed aluminum mesh panels were installed in an appropriately random manner.

The panels, designed to reflect the changing light of day, make for an intriguing architectural skin, though on a gray and sunless day, they don't exactly provide a scintillating visual experience.  


One of the addition's strong points is that it opens up to the world around it in a way the older building never attempted. This is especially crucial because the Walker occupies what is perhaps the finest building site in Minneapolis, poised between downtown and the chain of parks and lakes that are the city's defining feature.

Although the addition's unorthodox arrangement of windows appears to be an example of the we-did-it-because-we-could school of thought so prevalent in architecture today, they are, in fact, carefully placed to take advantage of the many extraordinary views the site offers.

The most spectacular window forms the corner of a bar and restaurant cantilevered over the Hennepin Avenue entrance. From this window, you can see the downtown skyline, Loring Park and three of the city's largest churches (the Basilica of St. Mary, the Cathedral Church of St. Mark and Hennepin Avenue United Methodist).

A variety of terraces and balconies also provides an opportunity to step outside during those occasional periods when it is safe to do so in Minnesota.  

Another of the addition's great virtues is that the architects have managed to design a museum that welcomes both people and art yet doesn't try to overwhelm either by its own noisy brilliance.  

The classic case of architecture upstaging art is Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum in New York City, where the famous spiral tends to outshine whatever tries to compete with it on the walls. Similar criticism has been levied at another celebrated Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain designed by Frank Gehry.

The Walker addition, however, allows the art to speak for itself. There are three new galleries (plus a fourth inserted into the older building), and all are straightforward white-walled boxes, blessedly free of architectural distraction.  

Around these galleries, the new building opens up into a series of lobbies, lounges, hallways and alcoves that are the antithesis of the older museum's rigorous formality. Whereas the old Walker was designed so visitors would experience it in a highly predetermined way, the addition is made for casual exploring. Moreover, almost all of the circulating spaces offer views to the outside that will help orient visitors as they make their way through the building.

Among the most interesting elements of the addition is a 385-seat theater designed in the horseshoe shape of classic concert halls and adorned with metal panels embossed with a Baroque-era ornamental pattern. The same pattern appears elsewhere in the new structure, and it's startling to see because ornament of any kind was considered rank heresy by the high modernists whose ideals are enshrined in the Walker's 1971 building.


The addition, for all of its brio, isn't perfect. The lobby off Hennepin feels rather low and oppressive, in part because its windows are obscured at the top in such a way that only short people will be able to enjoy the view out toward Loring Park. The architects are also way too fond of the tilted, angled walls that are much in fashion these days.  

From a practical standpoint, it will also be interesting to see if the building's mesh panels can handle Minnesota's notoriously awful weather without turning into a maintenance nightmare.  

There is the nagging matter of cost as well. At $70 million, the addition has come in $6 million over budget (the total project cost including land acquisition, financing and a city-built parking ramp, among other things stands at about $130 million).

The cost overrun has forced the Walker to leave office space unfinished in the new building. It will be next year at the earliest before the Walker's much-loved sculpture garden can be expanded (a project that entails the controversial demolition of the old Guthrie Theater).

Still, it's hard not to like the addition, which not only doubles the size of the Walker but also promises to make the museum much more of a people place, for lack of a better term, than it is now.

Predictions are hazardous, but the addition may well come to be seen as the first great 21st-century building in the Twin Cities, not just because of its novel appearance but also because it performs its public duties so well and with the kind of wit and spirit that renews your faith in the possibilities of architecture.

Art Museum of Western Virginia

Love the Design; Hate the Location

Roanoke Times & World News

James G. Cosby

April 10, 2005

I am impressed with the bold vision expressed in the design of the proposed Art Museum of Western Virginia. While my architectural preference runs to classical Greco-Roman or Jeffersonian designs, I admire the open outreach of the Randall Stout design, and will leave it to others to argue its beauty and functionality.

I do ask the museum board, Roanoke officials and the art community to consider carefully the proposed location. Roanoke is fortunate to have at least three architectural gems lying in close proximity: the City Market itself, Hotel Roanoke and St. Andrew's Church. Many would add the old Norfolk and Western general office buildings and the Link Museum to the list.

From Williamson Road, Interstate 581 and the market area, you can see these gems from many downtown locations. The art museum would limit that. Gone will be much of the view across the Norfolk Southern tracks of these Roanoke icons.

Gone, too, would be the view of the H & C Coffee and Dr. Pepper signs that welcome visitors to Roanoke.  

I put the Roanoke City Market on this list not because of the significance of any one building, but because of their collective beauty. The city has done well to retain and enhance the beauty and significance of the market area by preserving the turn of the last century buildings, which are the essence of Roanoke's commercial birthplace.  

From Salem Avenue and the Market Building down Market Street to No. 1 Fire Station, from Jefferson Street to Williamson Road, is Roanoke's "downtown village." Most of the buildings are of similar design and age. The ambiance keeps people coming and the market area alive.

Most cities would be delighted to have such charm. Impose a large nonconforming structure upon that area and you lose one of the  things that is best about Roanoke.

It also would consume a parking lot for the market area that doubles as a venue for outdoor festivals at Wachovia Square, such as the St. Patrick's Day celebration and Octoberfest, and triples in its service by keeping the view of Hotel Roanoke intact.

Roanoke has had a number of architectural successes in recent years. Who can imagine a solid waste transfer station in an industrial area built with such architectural care and sensitivity to its surroundings?

Drive throughout the historic district in Old Southwest and  absorb the flavor and beauty of Old Roanoke carefully preserved amidst buildings of a later vintage. The Jefferson Center, Campbell Court bus terminal and Grandin Road Village are other successes.  

Now I wish to offer an alternative. Simply move the proposed art  museum across Williamson Road to one of the lots between Williamson Road, the Norfolk Southern tracks and Elm Avenue. The only structures there are the Firestone Tire store (which could be relocated at a reasonable cost) and the Williamson Road parking garage (which could be used to provide parking for the museum).  

There would be plenty of parking, and the museum would extend the market's success to the NS tracks. Please reconsider the location of the new museum and move it to a more agreeable site. That would be provide a win-win result.

Cosby is an attorney for a federal agency  in Roanoke.

(C) 2005 Roanoke Times & World News. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

Chiswick Park

Perfect Answer to the Office Moaners

Evening Standard - London


April 11, 2005

WITH a brand called enjoy- work. com, Marxists will no doubt condemn it as a sinister capitalist ploy to raise productivity. But Chiswick Park, a gleaming 30-acre office community built on the site of a former bus depot, claims to be leading the way in "lifestyle support" to people working in the new economy.

More than 3,000 people are employed at this evolving business village, designed by Richard Rogers Partnership. Television channel Discovery is the latest arrival, joining among others Regus, CBS Europe, Foxtons, France Telecom, Intelsat and Walt Disney Company.

The showpiece architecture comprises a collection of glass buildings around a central lake. Within the grounds are kiosk shops, cafes and restaurants, a health club, open-air meeting places, performance and concert areas, boardwalks and jogging trails, even hideaways where you can sit down with a laptop.

Six of the planned 12 buildings are complete, and developer Stanhope has just unveiled two new speculative buildings, one totaling 34,000 sq ft and aimed at a large corporate occupier, the  other offering smaller bespoke units of 2,000 sq ft upwards.

The latter building incorporates a retail "street", likely to have a grocery store, bar and brasserie, post office and snack cafe. Rents of Pounds 32 per sq ft are being quoted. Fans of The Prisoner, the cult television series from the 1960s, will appreciate the rather sanitized environment.  

Tenant- occupiers are called "guests". Each morning, employees can log on to a bespoke intranet that puts them in direct contact with shops and services, enabling them to order deliveries and make bookings for whatever they need - groceries, dry cleaning, theatre tickets, video rentals, restaurant reservations, taxis, flowers, even a takeaway lunch.

Also available are evening classes in language and photography, bike hire, car valeting and therapeutic in-office massages.  

INSTEAD of a conventional estate office, there is a "Thoughtful Centre" that acts as manservant and handles the concierge collections and deliveries.

Feedback from guests suggests the owners have got it right in promoting a healthy work-life balance - even if this has been achieved by bringing people's life to the workplace. Nine out of 10 employees believe the approach has made a "positive difference".

"People have changed character overnight - those who used to moan all the time have just stopped," says an employee of MicroStrategy, one of the guests.  

Chiswick Park is seen as a model for future office development.  

The bottom line is that people who enjoy working, perform better, and the better they perform the more successful the company they work for becomes.

(C) 2005 Evening Standard - London. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

Auerbach Glasow Helps Old Meet New

Lighting Dimensions

April 11, 2005

San Francisco-based Auerbach Glasow, architectural lighting design and consulting, worked closely with the design team of acclaimed Italian architect Gae Aulenti and the prominent firm of Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum on the renovation of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. The museum is in the former San Francisco Public Library and houses the largest collection (15,000 pieces) of Asian art outside of Asia.

Auerbach Glasow designed the architectural lighting for the public spaces, galleries, and the exterior of the museum. The project retains the historic architectural lighting elements of the 1917 structure, and Auerbach Glasow designed the restoration and refurbishment of the original historic fixtures. The architectural lighting adds drama to the public spaces accenting the vaulted ceilings, moldings, inscriptions, and stone floors original to the building.

In the Main Entry, lighting highlights the ornate details of the foyer including its original light fixtures, plaster ceiling, and travertine walls. Auerbach Glasow restored existing original historic pendants that use compact fluorescent sources. The company replaced existing incandescent electrical components, slumped amber glass panels, and the historic torchieres? existing electrical components with new compact fluorescent sources and white frosted glass. Recessed adjustable low-voltage MR16 framing projectors draw attention to the entry’s original architecture and illuminate the donors? inscription wall.

On the main stair, Auerbach Glasow installed asymmetric quartz incandescent uplights, metal halide theatrical fixtures, and dimmable fluorescent striplights above the laylights. The lighting designers also integrated low-voltage adjustable accent lights to punctuate the glass art display cases in the loggia perimeter.  

Samsung Hall, formerly the two-story card catalog room of the building’s Main Library, has been transformed into a special events and performance space. Auerbach Glasow provided the design for restoration and refurbishment of the Hall’s original three-tiered chandelier and fitted the piece with new electrical components including special clear carbon filament lamps. Asymmetric quartz incandescent uplights produce soft, warm ambient lighting and highlight the room’s grand arched windows and coffered ceiling. Two separate downlighting systems have been integrated into the historic ceiling: a dimmable incandescent system whose primary use is for parties and events and a switched metal halide system for clean up and lectures.

The newly created grand Central Court marks the most significant architectural difference in the new Asian Art Museum and the former San Francisco Library building. The Central Court is modern and airy with two large skylights, accentuating the grandeur of the original structure. Daylight fills the space and brings it to life creating a dramatic public gathering space for art exhibits and special events. Skylight uplights illuminate the building above the Central Court skylights and emphasize the vertical height of the space. Custom fabricated rectangular multiple-head adjustable PAR38 lamps are a key lighting feature of this area used for general lighting and art accent lighting. Custom fabricated square and rectangular frame multiple-head adjustable low-voltage MR16 lamps were used for downlight and art accent light. This signature light fixture, based upon an original design by Aulenti and Castiglioni, is integrated within architectural notches in the floating ceiling panels.

In the exterior, Auerbach Glasow refurbished existing original historic light standards including electrical wiring, a new metal halide source, and a glass refractor globe. Pole mounted metal halide area lights illuminate the plaza, supplement the historic light standards and visually reinforce the main entrance gathering area. The base of the building is floodlit with surface mounted asymmetric compact fluorescent wallwashers. Metal halide PAR20, metal halide PAR30, and metal halide PAR38 accent lights, and metal halide PAR30 downlights illuminate various parts of the façade. The top crown articulation is backlit with linear fluorescent fixtures. Metal halide PAR30 uplights backlight the Larkin Street façade second-level colonnade creating a silhouette effect for passers-by.