The Art Museum of Arkansas is nearing completion ahead of a scheduled opening in April 2023. Designed by Studio Gang and Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects following their selection for the commission in 2016, the project saw unification of several existing structures on the museum grounds under a “thriving” central addition.
The 133,000 square foot building includes galleries, an art school, performing art spaces, public gathering spaces, a restaurant, and a museum store. More than 14,000 works of art will be housed in the museum, some dating back to the 14th century.
“Our design reinforces the museum’s role as the cultural anchor of Little Rock by bringing together once disparate structures into a cohesive whole and opening the building up to the surrounding city and landscape,” Jeanne Gang said of the project. “By optimizing its functional spaces and expanding its galleries, classrooms, and social spaces, the building transforms the visitor experience into one that is intuitive, inspiring, and seamless with its setting in MacArthur Park.”
Externally, Studio Gang’s most significant design intervention is a central ‘woven’ addition housed under a pleated roof. Beneath the roof, a three-level atrium forms a “luminous connecting space” guiding visitors through the renovated galleries of the museum. The atrium ceiling is clad in suspended wooden slats arranged in a linear pattern, while a polished concrete floor echoes the flowing roofline through curving bands of stone aggregate.
To the north, the project calls for the restoration of a historic 1937 Art Deco facade, while the south entrance opens onto an 11-acre landscape designed by SCAPE Landscape Architecture. The site plan contains 2,200 linear feet of new walking paths and an anchor lawn designed to accommodate special events and museum exhibits.
As an adaptive reuse project, the team sought to minimize the company’s carbon footprint by leveraging existing building materials. The carbon-intensive elements retained in the revised scheme include the original concrete and steel structure and foundations as well as the masonry, precast concrete and metal facades. Other sustainable features of the museum include a radiant heating and cooling system in the museum’s floor slabs and a rainwater management system.
The museum is one of many major adaptive reuse projects coming to an end this year. Earlier this week we reported on the revival of a former LA Times print shop as creative offices by EYRC Architects, while SOM completed a science complex at Wellesley College which brought together several existing buildings on campus. .
Earlier in 2022, we caught a glimpse of Foster + Partners’ adaptive reuse of a former Spanish gasworks, as work progressed on ODA’s transformation of a historic Rotterdam post office in the Netherlands .