First look: Renzo Piano's addition to Louis Kahn's Kimbell Art Museum [slideshow]

The $135 million, 101,130-sf colonnaded pavilion by the famed architect opens later this month. 

South view, Renzo Piano Pavilion, September 2013. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth
South view, Renzo Piano Pavilion, September 2013. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Robert Polidori All images courtesy Kimbell Art Museum
November 13, 2013

Designed by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop of Genoa/Paris/New York and Kendall/Heaton Associates of Houston, the highly anticipated expansion of the Kimbell Art Museum opens on Wednesday, November 27, 2013.

The $135 million, 101,130-square-foot colonnaded pavilion by Renzo Piano stands as an expression of simplicity and lightness—glass, concrete and wood—65 yards to the west of the signature cycloid-vaulted museum of 1972 by Louis I. Kahn.

Glimpsed from the portico of the Kahn Building, the highly energy-efficient two-part structure gives the impression of weightlessness: its recessed glass entrance is centered between crisp concrete walls; a wafer-thin layer of glass hovers over its louvered roof system; and enormous overhanging wood beams appear to float above the exterior walls.

Appearing for the first time in a Renzo Piano–designed building are galleries with smooth concrete walls and coupled wood ceiling beams. Twenty-nine pairs of these 100-foot-long Douglas Fir beams extend throughout the whole length of the front or east wing—jutting through the south gallery, entry lobby, and north gallery before coming to rest on exterior concrete columns. This wood beam structure supports the louvered roof system that controls the flow of sunlight into the building.

Two glazed outdoor walkways connect the simply expressed and luminous east wing with the rearmost building section, which is sheltered beneath a green roof. Here, a gallery designed for light-sensitive works is set partially underground and walled in lustrous concrete, its only window offering a dramatic view up a stepped ascent. 

The pavilion's greatest surprise lies in the west wing: an auditorium with bright-red, raked seating plunges below ground to the stage, which is set against the backdrop of a deep and broad light well animated by shifting patterns of natural illumination.

Eric M. Lee, director of the Kimbell, noted: "In its marshaling of light and materials, human scale, and tripartite plan and elevation, the Piano Pavilion provides a 21st-century counterpoint to Kahn's classic modern masterwork." 

Building Team:
Design architect: Renzo Piano Building Workshop 
Executive architect: Kendall/Heaton Associates
Mechanical engineers: Arup, Summit Consultants
Construction manager: Beck Group
Project manager: Paratus Group
 

View from the southwest at night, Renzo Piano Pavilion, October 2013. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Robert LaPrelle 
 
 

South view, Renzo Piano Pavilion and Louis Kahn Building, October 2013. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Robert LaPrelle
 

Interior view of south gallery, Renzo Piano Pavilion, September 2013. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Robert Polidori
 


Interior view of south gallery, looking out to the lawn, Renzo Piano Pavilion, September 2013. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Robert Polidori

 


Roof detail, Renzo Piano Pavilion, September 2013. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Robert Polidori

 


Detail of concrete gallery wall, Renzo Piano Pavilion, September 2013. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Robert Polidori

 


Auditorium, Renzo Piano Pavilion, September 2013. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Robert Polidori

 


Auditorium, Renzo Piano Pavilion, September 2013. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Robert Polidori

 


Auditorium, Renzo Piano Pavilion, September 2013. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Robert Polidori

 


Detail of roof and beam system, Renzo Piano Pavilion, September 2013. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Robert Polidori

 


View of facade looking south, Renzo Piano Pavilion, September 2013. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Robert Polidori

 


View of facade looking south, Renzo Piano Pavilion, September 2013. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Robert Polidori


View of facade looking south, Renzo Piano Pavilion, September 2013. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Robert Polidori


South gallery, Renzo Piano Pavilion, October 2013. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Robert Polidori


View from south gallery looking north, Renzo Piano Pavilion, October 2013. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Robert Polidori


South gallery, Renzo Piano Pavilion, October 2013. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Robert Polidori

Grand staircase, Renzo Piano Pavilion, October 2013. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Robert Polidori


Piano Building sketch, 2008. © Renzo Piano Building Workshop


Renzo Piano on the west portico of the Kahn Building, 2008. Photo by Robert LaPrelle. © Renzo Piano Building Workshop

         
 

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