World Architecture News.COM: By Nick Myall

Susan T. Rodriguez / Ennead Architects completes major renovation and expansion of US Museum including new cantilevered wing 
The new expansion and major renovation of the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in the USA designed by Susan T. Rodriguez/Ennead Architects has launched a new era for the Museum.

Established in 1959, the museum is located in the town of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, approximately 30 miles from Pittsburgh. The museum is dedicated to American art, with a concentration on art from southwestern Pennsylvania.

The expansion is a striking counterpoint to the original neo-Georgian structure, marrying old and new. This architecturally dynamic building underscores the importance of the arts and the Museum’s vital role in the Greensburg community and the region.

“We were inspired by the Museum’s conviction that design had the power to fulfill their aspirations for the future — both for the institution and the building,” states Ennead design partner Ms. Rodriguez. “We found their vision, collections and the site to be a compelling context for creating architecture that could strengthen and renew the identity and experience of The Westmoreland.” Ms. Rodriguez led Ennead design team with management partner Timothy Hartung.

Judith O’Toole, the Richard M. Scaife Director/CEO remarks, "After years of planning and construction, we are so pleased that The New Westmoreland is the museum we have always hoped it could be. The transformation of the existing building, with its seamless integration of new and restored galleries and the addition of a dramatic east wing, all set in a lush landscape, is breathtaking.”

The Museum’s transformation goes beyond the building itself to the site, where a new landscape and sculpture garden by LaQuatra Bonci Associates extends the Museum beyond the walls of the building to forge stronger connections to the city and the surrounding neighbourhood.

A simple palette of materials and textures — precast concrete, zinc, brick and glass — unifies the expansion with the existing building. At its northern end, and set into the topography of the site, the new brick wing mirrors the west wing to secure the symmetry of the original building while sponsoring a dramatic new zinc-clad cantilever to the south. Floor-to-ceiling glass offers panoramic views at the angled terminus of the cantilever, which houses both a new temporary and permanent exhibition galleries. The reinforcement of views to the region and beyond will be heightened as visitors move throughout the building to strategic points within the public spaces and gallery sequence, serving to further contextualize the Museum’s permanent collection.

An expanded sequence and range of galleries with views to the exterior unifies the interior spaces and connects the collection to its context. Additionally, a series of small-scale interventions within the existing building reinforces the underlying geometric language of the cantilever addition. 

Sustainability is integral to the project, with state-of-the-art mechanical systems incorporated throughout, along with enhanced daylighting and views, locally-sourced materials and a substantial reduction of exterior hardscape with the creation of the sculpture garden. Use of native and adaptive plantings eliminates the need for irrigation. The addition is designed to achieve LEED Silver certification.

“It had always been our aim to create a building that enhances the Museum’s position as a 21st-century beacon for the arts — both in the local community and as a revived cultural icon for the region at large,” states Ennead partner Timothy Hartung. “Having grown up in the area,” he adds, “it is also a personal honour to return and to be part of The Westmoreland’s future.”

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