Renzo Piano’s extension to the Gardner, Boston

This week the new addition to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum opened its doors for business. Designed by the Pritzker Prize winning architect Renzo Piano, the new building is a distinctive architectural addition to Boston’s Fenway Cultural District. The new structure sits approximately fifty feet behind the Museum’s historic palace, and will be LEED certified by the United States Green Building Council. The  focus of this historic museum founded by Isabella Stewart Gardner in 1903, is art, tapestries, and horticulture. The extensive collection is housed in a ’57,000 sq ft replica of a 15th-century Venetian palazzo, its three floors of galleries surrounding a landscaped, antiquity-filled courtyard, all of it covered by a glass roof floating some 70 ft above.’ As part of this project, the original building is undergoing a much needed restoration. The new building addition is respectful of the original building. It houses additional gallery space and well as an auditorium for music performance, which has become an important part of the culture of the Gardner.

The smaller of the two new volumes is the special exhibition gallery. This 2,000 square foot space includes an ante-gallery for light-sensitive objects and a larger volume, three times the size of the current gallery in the palace. With an entire north wall of glass and a skylight with micro louvers, this new gallery space will have ample opportunities to control and manipulate natural light.

The largest of these volumes holds a 300-seat performance hall with three balcony levels of front-row seating organized around a central stage. It is designed to create a similar intimate concert experience to those held in the Tapestry Hall. This multi discipline institution celebrates performance art, visual art as well as the beauty of design of the garden. This new building engages all of these with transparency and visual connection.

Tapestry Room, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Photo by T. E. Marr and Son, 1926.

‘For the first time since it opened in 1914, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Tapestry Room will once again take its place among the nation’s preeminent grand tapestry halls. The restoration will return this beloved space to its original configuration for the first time since a temporary stage, chairs, and other modern elements were added to accommodate formal concerts in the early 1970s.’

‘One of the most important goals of the new wing is the relocation of programming which has outgrown the historic galleries. The Tapestry Room is perhaps the most dramatic example of that as it had become the hub of the museum’s largest and most popular programming and had lost its focus as a gallery. This effort returns that space into a beautiful gallery for viewing tapestries—something an entire generation of visitors has not experienced.’

All images and excerpts sourced at The Gardner Museum.

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