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Tacoma Art Museum's new wing features sun screens that operate like railroad box car doors


Tacoma Art Museum's new wing features sun screens that operate like railroad box car doors

The 16-foot-tall screens, operated by a hand wheel, roll like box car doors across the façade and interlace with a set of fixed screens.

By Olson Kundig Architects | February 6, 2015
Tacoma Art Museum's new wing features sun screens that operate like railroad box car doors

The 16,000-sf addition expands the museum’s existing Antoine Predock-designed structure. Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

The new Haub Family Galleries at the Tacoma Art Museum (TAM), designed by Seattle-based Olson Kundig Architects, opened to the public last week. The galleries, together with a new entry plaza, mark the firm's first museum project and expand the museum’s existing Antoine Predock-designed structure by 16,000 sf.

Bringing several new iconic features to the museum’s interior and exterior, the Haub Family Galleries double the museum’s gallery space and will house the newly acquired Haub Family Collection of Western American Art, consisting of nearly 300 works. The Haub Family Galleries reflect the surrounding environment through the creative use of industrial elements, an earthy palette of materials, and mechanical features that allows the building to respond to its environment while helping to engage visitors.

The design inspiration for the new building comes directly from the rich historical context of Tacoma and the surrounding landscape—a city and region shaped through its interwoven connections to shipping, logging and railroading. That legacy has resulted in a contemporary building that is respectful of place, yet of its time.


Photo: Benjamin Benschneider


“Architecturally, the challenges became opportunities,” said Kundig. “It was an opportunity to create new venues to view art. The design takes into account Tacoma’s diverse and historic neighborhoods. The West doesn’t stop in Wyoming. Tacoma, the ‘City of Destiny,’ was the western terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad, and played an important part of the larger story of the West.”

The most striking feature of the new Haub Family Galleries building is a 34-foot-tall entry canopy that soars over the existing museum and expansion, adjoining the two spaces together. The canopy transforms the outdoor plaza into a public gathering space and is made using a combination of aluminum grating and stainless steel panels, which were reused from selectively demolished portions of the existing building.

Further enhancing the museum’s visual impact along Pacific Avenue, the Haub Family Galleries also feature sliding sun screens made of Richlite, a sustainable material made locally in Tacoma from recycled paper, organic fiber and phenolic resin. The roughly 16-foot-tall, 17-foot-tall screens, operated by a hand wheel, roll like railroad box car doors across the façade and interlace with a set of fixed screens. The screens pair form and function by referencing Tacoma’s industrial history while allowing the museum to control the amount of natural light in the space.


Photo: Benjamin Benschneider


The overall program for the TAM expansion includes 7,000 sf of new gallery space dedicated to the Haub Family Collection, 3,500 sf of new back-of-house service and mechanical space, and 3,000 sf of interior renovations in the existing facility for lobby, bookstore, café, and restrooms. The newly revised lobby and entry sequence encourages movement into and through the museum. Sustainable features include reduced water usage with adaptive landscape vegetation and low flow water fixtures, high efficiency mechanical and LED lighting systems, and the incorporation of reclaimed materials from the existing site.

The Olson Kundig Architects design team for the Haub Family Galleries was led by Design Principal Tom Kundig and also includes: Kirsten R. Murray, Principal; Kevin Kudo-King, Principal; Jim Friesz, Project Manager; Thomas Brown, Staff Charlie Fairchild, Interior Design; Naomi Mason, Interior Project Manager; Alan Maskin, Design Principal for the Interactive Art Space.


Photo: Kevin Scott

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider



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