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Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia opens renovated and expanded building designed by Gluckman Mayner Architects

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Georgia Museum of Art opened its new wing and renovated existing facility on January 29, 2011. Monumental limestone blocks, with a subtle striated relief, make up the new wing’s exterior and emphasize its simple lines. The orientation of this linear building reinforces the campus master plan’s circulation objectives and complements adjacent buildings. Thirty thousand square feet were added to the museum, including 16,000 square feet of new galleries, an exterior cloistered sculpture garden, an expanded lobby and additional collection storage space. The museum’s staff and supporters raised $20 million in external support to fund the construction.

Gluckman Mayner Architects, New York, served as the design firm for the project, in collaboration with Stanley Beaman & Sears, Atlanta, as the architect of record and with the Office of University Architects. Gluckman Mayner is known for its museum design work nationally and internationally. Some of the firm’s work includes the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Penn.; the renovation of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and Study Center, Santa Fe, N.M.; and the Museo Picasso, Malaga, Spain. Firm principals Richard Gluckman and David Mayner have been recognized with numerous awards, including honors from the American Institute of Architects, the American Architecture Awards, and Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s National Design Award, among many others.

The new wing is distinguished by the use of natural light and by the simple linear organization of galleries. The main corridor is daylit at each end, and some galleries are washed with natural diffused light from strategically placed skylights. Light “bars”—structural vertical openings that extend through the building from top to bottom—contain the skylights that introduce natural illumination to the interior. This filtered light creates livelier and more interesting spaces in the new gallery wing without detriment to the delicate works of art on display. The galleries house selections from the permanent collection of the museum. Six are devoted to American art, but two feature decorative arts, two European art, one works on paper and two exhibitions related to or drawn from the collection.
 
The existing galleries in the original 1996 building, designed by Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback and Associates and Craig, Gaulden & Davis, now host temporary and traveling exhibitions. The new Patsy Dudley Pate Balcony is a fully glazed broad corridor linking existing and new galleries. It commands a dramatic view from above to the terraced sculpture garden. The black granite monumental stair descends from the balcony to the M. Smith Griffith Grand Hall, which borders and looks into the sculpture garden to the west and opens to the newly constructed Plaza of the Arts to the east. Double-height openings, both east and west, wash this space with daylight, continuing the theme of openness throughout the new museum space. The Hall doubles as a reception venue that can seat more than 300 people.

The museum’s west façade, created entirely of glass and shaded by clinging vines, stretches along the back of the lobby and provides a view of the new Jane and Harry Willson Sculpture Garden, which is devoted to work by female sculptors. A café cart, operated by Athens’ Ike and Jane bakery, provides coffee drinks, breakfast items and lunch in this area, where patrons can sit at tables inside looking out at the garden or outside. Falling water and a collection pool are accessible by a winding path of gradually stepped terraces. Oversized white pavers spaced with strips of lush grass, fine slate aggregate, smooth concrete walls and benches, bamboo and native wisteria complete the palette of materials that define this meditative space.

Another major addition to the museum is the third-floor Study Centers in the Humanities, partly funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Pierre Daura Center, the Jacob Burns Foundation Center, the Henry D. Green Center for the Study of the Decorative Arts and the C.L. Morehead Jr. Center for the Study of American Art contain archives from the museum’s collections and promote study and research in the humanities. Offices for their various curators connect directly to the study centers, promoting dialogue with scholars and visitors. Additional teaching, classroom and work areas increase and enhance the museum’s service to the university and to the community at large. In addition to the Louis T. Griffith Library, the third floor is also home to a new education suite, the gift of Dudley and Bernie Stevens, including a new classroom. The Shannon and Peter Candler Collection Study Room is on the second floor, adjacent to the print collection storage room, and is always available by appointment.

The renovated and expanded facility was designed in accordance with LEED standards. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a green building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a nonprofit organization that promotes sustainability through sensitive design and operational efficiency. LEED certification verifies that the building design, construction and operations utilize creative solutions to improve things such as water efficiency, reduced carbon emissions and energy savings across the lifespan of the building. GMOA’s efficient site plan includes stormwater management and strong water-efficiency measures, and all construction waste was recycled. GMOA is currently under review by the USGBC and tracking Gold-level certification.

Museum Information
Partial support for the exhibitions and programs at the Georgia Museum of Art is provided by the Georgia Council for the Arts through appropriations of the Georgia General Assembly. The council is a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Individuals, foundations and corporations provide additional museum support through their gifts to the University of Georgia Foundation. The Georgia Museum of Art is located in the Performing and Visual Arts Complex on the East Campus of the University of Georgia. The address is 90 Carlton Street, University of Georgia, Athens, Ga. 30602-6719. For more information, including hours, see http://www.georgiamuseum.org or call 706.542.GMOA (4662).

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