Tacoma Art Museum Haub Galleries

Location Tacoma, Washington
Design Principal Tom Kundig
Principal Kirsten R. Murray
Principal Kevin Kudo-King

This project is an approximately 16,000 square-foot addition designed to house the Haub Western Art collection—and in the process, doubling the size of the museum’s gallery space. Not simply an addition of space, the expansion creates a prominent new entry through the addition of a 30-foot-high canopy and better street presence by opening up the new galleries to the street through large windows. The new wing builds upon Tacoma’s rich history, while invigorating its urban connectedness. The intended impression is of industrial-ness as opposed to postindustrial-ness. Materiality as opposed to abstraction. Intimateness as opposed to grandiosity.

Situated in Tacoma’s historic Union Depot—Warehouse neighborhood, the design takes its inspiration from the neighborhood’s elemental brick structures, its industrial and transportation history, as well as from the art collection itself. A major intersection—light rail, car traffic, and a pedestrian mall—the site is even the precise terminus of what was once the Northern Pacific Railway, the line that Lincoln put into place to populate the West. Subtle railroad associations come via its resemblance to boxcars, and the local Western tradition via its resemblance to barn slat ventilation and fencing.

As a counterpoint to the stainless steel cladding of the existing museum, the new addition is clad with Richlite, a locally-produced material that is made from recycled paper, organic fiber and phenolic resin. The company that makes it is based in Tacoma. Its earthy color, provenance, and material components reference the city’s connections to shipping, logging, and railroading.

The new galleries stretch along Pacific Avenue for greater pedestrian engagement and are characterized by its pedestrian scale and details, including a set of three sliding sun screens. The 16-feet-wide-by-17-feet-tall screens, operated by a hand-wheel, roll like box car doors across the façade and nest together enabling the museum to control the amount natural light admitted to the building.

The enhanced entry and lobby created between the existing museum and the new wing—a sheltered gathering place—forms a welcoming gesture to the community, both figuratively and literally.

The new 30-foot-high canopy announces the museum to the community, creates a junction between the existing museum and the new addition, and serves as a gateway to Pacific Avenue and Tacoma. The canopy is made using a combination of aluminum grating and stainless steel panels which were reused from selectively demolished portions of the existing building.

The program for the addition includes 7,000 square feet of new gallery space, 3,500 square feet of new back-of-house service and mechanical space, 3,000 square feet of interior renovations in the existing facility for lobby, bookstore, café and restrooms.

Sustainable features include reduced water usage with adaptive landscape vegetation and low flow water fixtures, high efficiency mechanical and LED lighting systems, and the incorporation of reclaimed materials from the existing building.

In addition to doubling the museum’s gallery space, the new addition opens the museum up to the city through large, floor-to-ceiling windows, enabling visitors and passers-bys to glimpse activity within, making the museum a destination with the introduction of an enhanced and large-scaled entry canopy. The newly revised lobby and entry sequence encourages movement into and through the museum.

The new entry canopy reaches out into the city, toward Tollefson Plaza and Pacific Avenue and helps create a welcoming gateway to the museum district. The new gallery forms creates a backdrop to a new sculpture court and active plaza.

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