FORT WORTH, Texas — The Renzo Piano Pavilion at the Kimbell Museum is the much anticipated expansion to Louis Kahn's original building.
The $135 million pavilion, named for the famed architect who designed it, needed to work well with Kahn's original soaring cycloid vaulted domes and lengthy expanses of open space primarily done in warm travertine marble and concrete. Opened to the public in November, the pavilion gives due respect to Kahn's earlier masterpiece while forging a lighter, somewhat less intimidating path ahead.
The spacious interior allows the Kimbell to keep the majority of its permanent collection on display in addition to hosting visiting exhibits separately in the Kahn building.
“We are as well known for our permanent collection as we are for the exhibits we bring in,” said Eric M. Lee, Kimbell director.
One such exhibit is “The Age of Picasso and Matisse: Modern Masters From the Art Institute of Chicago,” presently on display. This exhibit is on a rare loan from the institute.
Respect for design
Done largely in glass, concrete, and wood, Renzo Piano followed the hallowed trail Kahn forged when the Kimbell was first built in 1972. The new, light-filled rectangular building sits serenely across the green space roughly 65 yards to the west of the Kahn building.
Piano knew the placement and proximity of the new building was important.
“Buildings are like people,” he said. “You get too close, and it's uncomfortable. You stand too far away, and it's cold and uninviting.”
After walking the distance numerous times, the precise location was set.
“Buildings talk to one another. They create what we call human space,” Piano said. “Buildings that hold art make cities better places to live,” he insisted.
The expansion also needed to circumvent the lack of parking at the entrance to the Kimbell, as Kahn originally designed a walk-up entrance, what he deemed a “silent space.” The area is now shared space between the two buildings, engaging both in an unspoken conversation for years to come.
Large Douglas fir beams cover the expanse of the airy galleries; silvery smooth concrete walls encase each space throughout the new pavilion; and layer upon layer of screens in various materials line the glass ceiling panels to filter just enough light to enhance the viewing of works on display.