Five of the nation’s top architectural firms recently accepted a challenge to re-imagine the Kimball Art Center. The results are on display now in the Kimball’s Badami Gallery.
As part of an ambitious design competition, the five were chosen from a field of 12 firms that submitted proposals for an approximately $6 million addition onto the center’s existing space at the intersection of Main Street and Heber Avenue.
But the Kimball Art Center board wants more than an addition. In their words, they are looking for a "transformation."
On Nov. 2, KAC board president Matt Campbell told a standing-room-only crowd at the Egyptian Theatre they hoped to "embark on a project that will be a treasure."
To accomplish their objective, the Kimball hired a professional consultant to conduct a rigorous search for an architect. Of the 200 invitations that were sent to a handpicked group of recognized professionals, 12 responded. From those, the five finalists were selected and asked to create the models that were unveiled Thursday.
The Park Record asked each of the firms to describe their approach to the assignment by answering these three questions and their answers are below.
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What one piece of public input did you receive about the Kimball project that most influenced your plan?
What would you say to someone about your model when people see it for the first time?
What was the biggest challenge in coming up with a design for this site?
BIG | Bjarke Ingels Group
Founded by Danish architect Bjarke Ingles with offices in Copenhagen and New York.
In approaching the design for the new Kimball Art Center, we found great inspiration in the urban development of Park City, the Kimball site, and the city’s mining heritage. We feel the form of the new Kimball Art Center emerges where these rich stories overlap.
We were particularly moved when a long-time resident of Park City spoke nostalgically about the former Coalition Building, which once stood just south of the Kimball site. It stood 80 feet tall for 80 years as an iconic landmark for Park City and a monument to the mining heritage, until a fire tragically brought it down in 1982. We wanted to recreate some of its attributes in the new Kimball Art Center.
Historically, timber was the primary construction material of the first miner settlers in Park City. Inside the mines heavy timbers were stacked into retaining walls. The same technology inverted was applied outside the mines as primary structure for most residential construction. We found stacked timber construction especially interesting because we see parallel references in the Scandinavian vernacular – and in fact we found that there was much Scandinavian influence in the formative years of Park City. We conceived the new Kimball Art Center as an evolution of this construction technique – basically a highly-evolved log cabin at an unprecedented scale.
We found the most interesting challenge to be where the Kimball is situated in the urban context. At the intersection of the most socially active street — Main Street — and a diagonal street that has become the gateway to the city — Heber Avenue — the new Kimball needed to address both orientations. We solved this by essentially giving each street a gallery.
Brooks + Scarpa
Lawrence Scarpa and Angela Brooks are the principals of the Los Angeles-based firm Brooks + Scarpa.
Visiting the Center had the most influential impact on our design. It was thrilling to see the energy at the center with so many kids and adults actively participating in the culture of art. I learned that Kimball Art Center was more about the process of making art, engaging the community in a wide variety of artistic experiences, and most importantly, it is an extremely valuable community asset for the city. It became clear to me that our design should reflect the community and the process of making art rather than simply displaying it and that the center should physically be very open to the street and community. In a sense the building should not only become a vibrant community place but part of the everyday life of the community. Rather than simply displaying art to the community, the process itself can be on display.
Park City has drawn millions of people from around the world to live, visit and play among its unique natural beauty and blend of old and new. One of the most incredible and mesmerizing natural features is the seemingly endless deep blue sky. Despite the time of year or weather conditions, the sky always seems to quickly return to its infinite and hypnotic clarity, with rarely a cloud. It provokes a kind of indelible wonder; a dreamlike state of mind that engages the viewer. Our design concept for the new Kimball Art Center addition and renovation is to perceptually bring the uniqueness of the Park City sky directly into the space of the city, allowing the user to forge a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the fundamental, yet delicate relationships that exist between themselves, the natural world, its vital resources, and our collective cultures. "The Kimball Cloud" delivers a new experience and expands art into the broader Park City community, creating a new social space for the 21st century.
With over 9,000 skiable acres, 64 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places and hosting many important cutting-edge cultural events, Park City possesses a unique blend of small-town charm with 21st century thinking. The biggest challenge in coming up with our design was: how does our building visually represent those seemingly diametrically opposed ideas? How does a 21st century new building co-exist and complement the historic Kimball Building and fit within the town context, while being representative of a forward-thinking community and institution? Because of it’s proposed location at Main Street and Heber Avenue how does the new building become a gateway to the city while being a good neighbor?
It was important for us to make the new addition very light and airy which would complement the heavy mass of the existing historic building and allow the street life and community to seamlessly connect to the interior of the building. This illusion of heavy and lightness would also have the power to enhance both buildings, giving them a collective strength that neither building could possess individually.
The new building also needed to be taller than the rest of the buildings around it but should complement the surrounds. We thought that if our proposed building could also float like a beautiful cloud over the site, it could help answer some of these difficult questions.
Will Bruder is the fonder of Will Bruder + Partners Ltd. based in Phoenix, Az.
Last Nov. 2, at the end of my early dawn walkabout of Park City to reacquaint myself with the place, I found the Kimball Art Center’s cafe/coffee shop had just opened for the day. As the only customer, I had the joy of a passionate 30-minute Park City history lesson from the barista, i.e. to my surprize, Mayor Dana Williams. His tale of the place, from his youth to the present day fully inspired me with an entertaining tale of a place having grown from a ghost town in the 80s to the international Olympic/film festival/arts Mecca it is today. He suggested, "create an art center that is authentic to the character of the place and responsive to the diversity of the town’s population."
I hope that our model and concept shows citizens our respect for the context of their community and the potentials we see in creating a unique architecture that celebrates that.
The biggest challenge in coming up with our scheme was understanding how to deal with the complexity of connecting all the edges of the art center’s site, which is shaped, in section, like a "warped potato chip!" The solution is a three-dimensional Mobius strip, of sorts, which defines the movement from the sidewalk through the interior of the new Kimball Art Center. This idea allows us to connect new front doors on Main Street, Heber Avenue, and the north delivery door off of Park Avenue, all without the need of a step or staircase, comfortably accessible to all. Thus the problem has become the solution.
Sparano + Mooney Architecture
Sparano + Mooney Architecture, led by John Sparano and Anne Mooney, has offices in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles http://www.sparanomooney.com
We were struck by two things that led to our emphasis on flexibility and adaptability of the KAC for diverse audiences: The central role the KAC plays in the arts education of the children in the region and the incredible range and scale of events that take place at the KAC each year.
This is a project that can only be here, at this historic site, at this particular time. In an era that architecture is becoming more and more homogenized globally we have designed a building for the Kimball Art Center that is uniquely about the special place of Park City, Utah.
The biggest challenge was the very complex program that needed careful consideration without which the project plan would not function in the way the art center actually operates. There are essentially no peer institutions to study as a precedent. This challenge allowed us to be very creative in how we arranged the program components (education, exhibition and events) and to consider and design ideal scenarios in terms of how these building spaces will be accessed and experienced by the visitor.
Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects
The firm Tod Williams Billie Tsien is headquartered in New York City.
More than a single piece of advice, we were influenced by the energy, enthusiasm, and ambition of the people involved and especially their desire to connect both to the community and the world beyond. We wanted to make this feel building specific to Park City but also exciting enough to catch the attention of a greater audience.
Looking at models is an exercise of imagination. Models are an abstraction and you have no sense of the real materials– their warmth and their texture. That said, imagine being inside of the model. Move around it and look into it. Get close to it to really feel the scale and presence of the building.
Park City’s landscape is incredibly beautiful and overwhelming. We struggled to design a scheme that was both powerful and quiet. We wanted to make a building that celebrates the power of the landscape – not one that challenges it.