New Building Design

Site Plan of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston. © RENZO PIANO BUILDING WORKSHOP, 2010.

Designed by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, the new building at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a distinctive architectural addition to Boston’s Fenway Cultural District. Set at approximately fifty feet behind the Museum’s historic palace, it stands no higher than the surrounding building fabric and features materials that respectfully complement the existing site and neighborhood.

Rendering from Evans Way Park. © RENZO PIANO BUILDING WORKSHOP, 2010.

The new building is situated on Frederick Law Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace park system and will front Evans Way Park with a glass atrium ticketing area, a corridor of greenhouses and continuous views to the Museum’s garden landscape, creating a lush and verdant experience for visitors upon arrival. Once inside, the ground level color-less glass walls continue the transparent reading of the site, punctuated by a series of brick walls that extend into the garden establishing a visual relationship with the Palace. With the greenhouses, an education studio and special orientation “Living Room,” this ground level reveals the creative pulse of the Museum.

Section through the New Performance Hall and Special Exhibition Gallery. © RENZO PIANO BUILDING WORKSHOP, 2010.

“...a distinct visual and acoustical experience.”

“Floating” above the transparency of the first floor, four volumes clad in patinated copper panels are organized on an axial circulation system that features a main open stairway and elevator. The largest of these volumes holds a 300-seat performance hall with three balcony levels of front-row seating organized around a central stage. With a skylight in the roof, this arrangement affords visitors a distinct visual and acoustical experience.

The second largest volume is the special exhibition gallery. This 2,000 square foot space includes an ante-gallery for light-sensitive objects and a larger volume, three times the size of the current gallery in the palace. With an entire north wall of glass and a skylight with micro louvers, this new gallery space will have ample opportunities to control and manipulate natural light. The gallery also features a movable translucent ceiling for varying spatial conditions and specific exhibition needs.

The remaining two volumes contain administrative areas, conservation labs and support spaces for the performance hall. To the south of these four volumes, the sloped glass roof of the greenhouses on the ground floor becomes the glass window of two apartments on a second level for the Museum Artist/Scholar-In-Residence program.

Renzo Piano Perspective Sketch of the Glass Connector from the New Wing to the Historic Museum Building. © RENZO PIANO BUILDING WORKSHOP, 2010.

To enter the historic palace from the new building, visitors will walk through a glass enclosed corridor that passes through a dense grove of trees, a procession to the light-filled floral display of the courtyard at the center of Isabella Gardner’s historic collection. This connection requires minimal intervention to the existing building, only relocating one art installation at the south end of the east cloister.

The new building at the Gardner Museum will be LEED certified by the United States Green Building Council. Main components of the sustainable design are a geothermal well system, daylight harvesting, water-efficient landscaping techniques and the use of local and regional materials, which reduces the environmental impact associated with transport.

At a Glance

Increasing Capacity for Programming and Conservation

Providing approximately 70,000 square feet of additional space, the design of the new building sustains the mission of the Gardner Museum, linking Isabella Gardner’s historic legacy with contemporary culture by providing new spaces to learn and experience art, music, and horticulture.

The new building also provides state-of-the-art conservation labs, exhibition preparation space, and expanded archival and collection storage allowing the museum’s Palace and collection to be conserved to the highest standards.

  • • Performance Hall
  • • Special Exhibition Gallery
  • • Education Studio
  • • Two Artist/Scholar-In-Residence Apartments
  • • Greenhouses
  • • Horticulture Classroom
  • • Conservation Labs
  • • Exhibition Preparation Space
  • • Archival and Collection Storage

Enhancing Visitor Services

Enhanced visitor amenities in the new building include a new museum shop, café and “Living Room”. The shop will be significantly expanded from the current arrangement in the palace and the café will seat up to 80 people indoors, with garden seating for seasonal use. The “Living Room” is a unique space where visitors can learn about the creative undertakings of the museum and Isabella Stewart Gardner’s creative legacy.

  • • Ticketing Area and Coat Check
  • • Orientation “Living Room”
  • • Cafe
  • • Shop

© Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum | 25 Evans Way, Boston MA 02115 |

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