Eli Broad, Wal-Mart Heiress, Piano Lead Museum Boom

Whitney Museum
An architectural rendering of the Renzo Piano design for the new Downtown Whitney Museum. Source: Renzo Piano Building Workshop/Cooper, Robertson & Partners/Whitney Museum via Bloomberg

The $100 million Broad Art Foundation will rise in Los Angeles from sinuously curved piers to a canted exterior with a bristling, light-shading lattice.

Inside, the walls and ceiling of an exhibition space almost an acre in size will glow with carefully controlled daylight. Eli Broad unveiled the design by Manhattan architecture firm Diller Scofidio & Renfro on Jan. 6.

Because of the slanting, windowed walls, works from the 2,000 pieces of modern and contemporary art collected by Broad and his wife, Edythe, will be displayed on freestanding partitions. Broad has also given lavishly to the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

While the recession brought a lull in a two-decade museum building boom, 2011 is looking like a banner year. Here are the highlights:

1. Miami Art Museum: Herzog & de Meuron has designed a $130 million pavilion in which gallery cubes in various sizes appear to hang from the roof. It’s one of the few bravura “destination” designs being built these days. Construction began in December.

2. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: Oslo and New York firm Snohetta will design a $480 million addition behind the museum’s charmless 1995 Mario Botta building. It will house the 1,100 modern works in the collection of Doris and Donald Fisher, founders of the Gap retail chain. The museum will make the design public in June.

3. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art: This new 200,000-square-foot museum, designed by Moshe Safdie, will house the collection of American art being amassed by Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton. Safdie arranged copper-roofed pavilions around ponds formed from a wooded stream in Bentonville, the retailer’s Arkansas base. It is scheduled to open Nov. 11.

Kimbell, Gardner

4. Kimbell Art Museum: Renzo Piano is working up a $125 million structure across from the 1972 museum-design masterpiece by Louis Kahn, in Fort Worth, Texas. In doubling the museum’s gallery space, Piano frames a forecourt garden with the new building, to be completed in 2013.

5. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: Piano has designed a $114 million addition to the mansion Gardner built in Boston to hang her collection. Accommodating temporary exhibition galleries, a recital hall and ancillary facilities, the 60,000-square-foot building, opening in 2012, frees up display space in the older structure, famous for its garden courtyard.

6. Barnes Foundation: New York architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien are creating a grander (93,000 square feet) and more dignified $150 million public-museum home for the Impressionist-heavy collection of patent-medicine magnate Albert C. Barnes in Philadelphia. Decades of money and management problems forced a controversial move from a beloved garden-swathed building in suburban Merion, Pennsylvania. The new Barnes is scheduled to open in late spring, 2012.

Clyfford Still

7. St. Louis Art Museum: Builders are erecting a 200,000-square-foot addition in glass and dark-toned concrete that opens galleries into a garden next to the original 1904 Beaux Arts building. The architect is London-based David Chipperfield.

8. Clyfford Still Museum: In Denver, a $29 million textured-concrete building by Allied Works will house almost the entire output of the artist Clyfford Still. Slated to open at year’s end, the 28,000-square-foot building subtly tunes its exhibition spaces to Still’s very particular ideas about how his work should be displayed.

9. Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland: The growing institution will get an angular 34,000-square-foot building by Farshid Moussavi of London’s Foreign Office Architecture. The $26.7 million design, scheduled to open in late 2012, includes an intricate stairway that is an artwork itself.

10. Whitney Museum: The New York City institution expects to break ground in May for its long-awaited $450 million new home in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. Designed by the ubiquitous Piano and four times the size of the original, the building will have an 18,000-square-foot, full-floor exhibition space, sculpture terraces facing the popular High Line park and views of the Hudson River. It’s due to open in 2015.

(James S. Russell writes on architecture for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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