Kimball Art Center thinks BIG
Ryan Summerlin February 14, 2012
It’s official. The chimney design by BIG/Bjarke Ingels Group out of New York and Copenhagen has been selected for the Kimball Art Center’s Transformation Project.
The Danish architect proposed a spiraling, 80-foot tower constructed of trestles salvaged from the Great Salt Lake railroad.
The design, which is estimated to cost $10 million to construct, was chosen from five finalists, who presented their designs to the public and a seven-person jury last Thursday at the Kimball Art Center.
BIG’s vision includes a street-level galley along Main Street, a "sky gallery" facing Heber Avenue and an open rooftop terrace. The tower will also house a restaurant and administration spaces located between the galleries.
The Kimball Art Center, 638 Park Ave., will host an open house on Thursday, Feb. 16, from 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., that will give the public a chance to meet board and staff members and discuss the design.
The KAC board of directors ratified the decision on Friday after four-hours of deliberation by a jury that was comprised of Park City resident and Gaddis Investments founder Jim Gaddis, Park City Historic District Commission founder Tina Stahlke Lewis, Salt Lake City-based architect Prescott Muir, marketing expert Joanne Shiebler, former director of design for the National Endowment for the Arts Maurice Cox, Kimball Art Center executive director Robin Marrouche and Park City Municipal Community Affairs director Phyllis Robinson.
Cox, who also teaches architecture at the University of Virginia, said the jury was impressed by BIG’s presentation.
"One of the things they did very artfully was to tie their vision of Kimball to the history of Park City and made reference to the Coalition building, which they understood, had to the power to reorganize the city skyline," Cox told The Park Record. "At the same time, transform the Kimball Art Center into the very center of the town. I think they really won the hearts of Park City residents by imagining they could have an iconic building in the town again."
Other than the design, the jury was taken by the structure’s function as an art and community center.
"There were many expressions of how to gather people together for the variety of community activities that go on in the Kimball, but they had a unique understanding of cold-weather climates," he said. "So, they reserved the magical spaces in their proposal to the inside with tall, sweeping spaces as the participants ascend up to the galleries.
"They understood Park City is cold and there is a need for majestic and uplifting spaces inside the structure if you’re going to capture the community public life," he said.
"We all felt the top of the building at 80 feet tall will be the most spectacular observatory in Park City."
During the presentation, the jury did notice the fact the building does not have any windows along Main Street, but felt the KAC could work with BIG to work out a solution, Cox said.
"It was interesting because before the BIG group could get into the car after the presentations, they were already discussing ways to address this issue," he said. "It spoke to the fact that these are the kind of designers the Kimball, will in fact, have an incredible dialog with."
On a personal note, Cox liked that the structure was essentially a "simple, elegant and bold gesture."
"I think everyone kept being drawn back to this strange structure, and at every angle you look at it, it presented itself differently, and that was captivating," he said. "My sense was the Kimball is looking for an identity beyond Park City’s international claim as the home for winter sports, and prides itself on being the home of community arts, but they simply did not have a facility that spoke to the centrality of the arts. A building can do that and give an expression of the community’s values."
Cox felt BIG’s presentation hit the nail on the head.
"I felt the building was a reflection of what Park City wants to be and what the Kimball can be – a center for the arts in the American West," he said. "It’s a fantastic and inspired vision."
Buzz Strasser, a member of the KAC executive board and chairman of the Landmark Committee, which oversaw the Transformation Project, said he hopes construction, which will last between 18 and 24 months, will begin next year.
"It’s a little difficult to predict right now, because we’re going through some schematic phases," Strasser said during a press conference at the KAC on Monday. "We’re certainly going to go through some budgeting processes, but it will probably be in 2013, or it could be a little later than that."
Until then, the KAC board will meet monthly with the architects to make sure the project is on track, he said.
The Kimball Art Center, 638 Park Ave., will host an open house on Thursday, Feb. 16, from 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., For more information, visit www.kimballartcenter.org.