Simplicity, lightness, nature, elms and red oaks…. That is what characterizes the more than 100,000 square feet of Piano’s pavilion, which stands as an artistic expression on its own, built with glass, concrete and wood. Less than 65 yards west of Kahn’s cycloid museum, the pavilion is “close enough for a conversation, not too close and not too far,” in the words of its creator.Renzo Piano’s dynamic building has two structures connected by a glass corridor. The front, or east wing, offers visitors a feeling of weightlessness as its glass roof appears to be floating above wooden beams and concrete poles. Also hard to miss are the stylized polished concrete columns flanking the main entrance and surrounding three sides of the building, along with a tripartite facade that articulates the interior, and a wide corridor to the entrance and large galleries that run north and south, which help create an atmosphere of purity and order.Piano is fascinated by the unique combination of some materials, hence the introduction of elements and lines which, together with other intangible elements such as light, result in ethereal spaces. For him, architecture has to do with “people, society, science, invention, technology, history, art, and beauty.” That is why whoever enters the Museum becomes one with the building and instantly feels happy.
The west wing is sheltered by a green roof and includes a gallery specially designed to display works sensitive to light, three studies dedicated to education, a library with reading areas, an auditorium with excellent acoustics and an underground parking garage. The auditorium, located on ground level, has 299 reclining seats and a spectacular backdrop that interacts with the changing of natural light throughout the day. “In its marshaling of light and materials, in its human scale and tripartite plan and elevation, the Piano Pavilion provides a 21st-century counterpoint to Kahn’s classic modern masterwork,” says Museum Director Eric M. Lee.
The New York Times described the relationship between the two pavilions as a “civilized conversation across the ages.” While Piano talks with straight lines, Khan expresses himself with curves. By placing his structure in front of Khan’s, Piano has restored the primacy of the west facade of the museum and its dramatic entrance, changing the general trend of visitors that came through to the east gate, which Kahn considered as secondary entrance.
As usual in the work of Renzo Piano, the importance of light is critical to the point of being the main character. Both inside and outside, the Italian architect manipulates light through beveled walls.
Renzo Piano’s long and successful career boasts iconic landmarks that stay embedded in our memories such as the new Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; the Paul Klee Center in Berne, Switzerland, the expansion of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and his masterpiece, the Pompidou Center in Paris. His list of awards is almost as large as his creations: RIBA Gold Medal (Royal Institute of British Architects) in 1989, Kyoto Prize in 1990, Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1998 and a gold medal from UIA (International Union of architects), 2002, among others.
Renzo Piano‘s valuable contribution doubles the original space of the Kimbell Art Museum to accommodate the growing number of works from its collection and an increasing number of programs, which have multiplied in recent years. It is, certainly, a cause for celebration.
A part of that celebration includes showcasing new works such as, Renoir and Monet: two special temporary exhibitions, one of which showcases Monet’s paintings, “The late years,” which is on display until September 15, 2019 and Renoir, “The body, the senses,” which is on display until October 27, 2019. For more information about the museum’s latest exhibitions click here. ■