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Gluckman Tang-designed museums could stimulate economy in North Adams, Mass.

The goal is to create a “cultural corridor” between North Adams and Williamstown, Mass.  

December 16, 2015 |
Plans for new museums meant to stimulate economy in a Berkshires mill town

The Global Contemporary Art Museum in North Adams, Mass. Renderings courtesy Gluckman Tang Architects

North Adams, Mass., is probably best known as the town named after Declaration of Independence signatory Samuel Adams, and the home of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCa).

And now, an ambitious development plan aims to reaffirm North Adams’ status as a cultural destination. That plan revolves around the future opening of two new museums, each being designed by New York-based Gluckman Tang Architects, which previously has been involved in renovations of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Málaga’s Museo Picasso in Barcelona, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, among other buildings.

In North Adams, the firm is designing the 165,000-sf Global Contemporary Art Museum (GCAM), located on the grounds of Harriman-West Airport. Providing the funding for GCAM is a group of international art collectors who plan to use the museum to exhibit selections from their collections.

Gluckman Tang is also designing the 32,400-sf Extreme Model Railroad and Contemporary Architecture Museum, a 400-foot-long addition to two historic freight depots in the town’s Western Gateway Heritage State Park, an old rail yard. Frank Gehry, Gluckman Tang, and Zaha Hadid have agreed to create architectural models for this building’s trainscape diorama, through which the world’s largest collection of O-scale (i.e. 1/48th-size) model trains will travel.


Extreme Model Railroad and Contemporary Architecture Museum


The significance of this development plan was evident by the appearance of two former Massachusetts governors, Michael Dukakis and William Weld, and North Adams’ mayor Richard Alcombright, at the Dec. 5 unveiling. Also in attendance were the museums’ designer Richard Gluckman; and Thomas Krens, former director of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, who was a leading force behind the development of Mass MoCa in the 1980s.

Krens told The New York Times that North Adams project is still in its early stages. He estimated its overall cost at between $25 million and $30 million.

Curiously, Krens also revealed that he had initially considered China for the location of the railroad museum. (He and Gluckman recently collaborated on the new media museum for the Hunan Broadcasting System in Changsha, China.)

That being said, one of the goals of this development is to establish what Gluckman called “a cultural corridor” between North Adams and Williamstown, Mass., about seven miles away, whose renowned Sterling and Francine Clark Art Museum completed its latest stage of expansion last year.

Mass MoCa—which draws more than 150,000 visitors annually—is in the midst of doubling the gallery space on its North Adams campus to 250,000 sf by 2017, and adding new galleries. Krens believes a larger facility could be a more powerful driver for the local economy.

As for the new museums, Gov. Dukakis noted that North Adams played a prominent role in the nation’s railroad history. “Building a model train and contemporary architecture museum, of this quality and detail, in North Adams will celebrate this history and build upon the investments in culture and education we made here in the 1980s.”

The completion date for both museums is 2018.


Global Contemporary Art Museum

Extreme Model Railroad and Contemporary Architecture Museum

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