Kimball Art Center designs: razzle-dazzle or subdued? |

Kimball Art Center designs: razzle-dazzle or subdued?

by Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

Will they be razzle-dazzle designs that might look out of place in a historic district?

Or, will the architectural ideas for the expansion of the Kimball Art Center be more subdued, bowing to the 100-plus years of history of the Main Street core.

Kimball leaders on Thursday plan to unveil the models created by the five architectural firms vying for the contract to design the not-for-profit institution’s multimillion-dollar expansion.

The models will likely be of particular interest to Kimball backers, City Hall and Main Street given the expansion is slated to be built at the high-profile Main Street-Heber Avenue intersection. The expansion will take up the space where the Kimball’s patio is located, the same spot where the giant Olympic torch sculpture once stood.

The new space will likely double the size of the Kimball. The expansion will also move the main entrance of the Kimball to Main Street from Heber Avenue.

The designs will be made public during an event scheduled from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the Kimball. The models, which are approximately 3 feet by 4 feet, will remain on display until Jan. 13, Robin Marrouche, the executive director of the Kimball, said.

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The finalist firms are:

  • Will Bruder + Partners, Phoenix
  • Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, New York City
  • Sparano + Mooney Architecture, Salt Lake City
  • Brooks + Scarpa, Los Angeles
  • Bjarke Ingels Group, New York City and Copenhagen, Denmark

    The Kimball touts the field of finalists as an impressive group, especially given the relatively small scale of the project. Marrouche called the group "top-caliber designers."

    She said the firms were able to be innovative with their designs even as they paid homage to the historic location. The ideas preserve the Kimball itself, which is a historic building, she said. Marrouche, though, had not seen the models or images of them through midday Monday.

    The Thursday event comes nearly two months after a well-attended gathering at the Egyptian Theatre introducing the firms to Parkites. Representatives from the firms at that event spoke in broad terms about architectural designs and their interest in the Kimball. They did not delve into details about the designs, though.

    The Kimball has outlined a rough schedule as it prepares for a groundbreaking as early as spring 2013. Marrouche said a Feb. 2 question-and-answer session is scheduled between the firms and a jury that will make the selection. The event will be public. The jury, which includes five voting members, will choose one of the firms the next day, Marrouche said.

    She said the Kimball anticipates it will begin to seek the necessary City Hall approvals for the expansion in the spring. It is not clear what sort of City Hall process will be required of the Kimball, but the expansion will likely be of particular interest given its well-traveled location.

    A preliminary estimate of the cost puts the expansion at $6 million. The budget will be made more certain once an architectural firm is selected. Marrouche said the Kimball will mostly fund the work through a combination of private donations and donations from foundations. She said the Kimball might seek public monies at the local, state and federal levels as well.

    The Kimball in 2008, under different leadership, approached City Hall with ambiguous ideas for an expansion onto the patio. The talks did not advance, however. Some owners in the Town Lift Condominiums next door to the Kimball at that time expressed concern about obstructed views from their places and falling property values if the art center expanded.