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Kentucky's Speed Art Museum Reveals Expansion Design Plans Designed by wHY Architecture
Rendering of Speed Art Museum expansion exterior. Courtesy of wHY Architecture.

LOUISVILLE, KY.- The Speed Art Museum has unveiled the design for a major expansion and renovation of its facilities, encompassing 200,000 square feet of new and renovated interior and exterior space. Growing out of the Museum’s long-range master planning process, the Speed commissioned wHY Architecture—led by Kulapat Yantrasast, working with his partners Richard Stoner and Yo-ichiro Hakomori —for the project.

The design includes the construction of two new buildings, both of which will link directly to the Museum’s existing structure and unify the Speed’s facility, which has grown sporadically over time. The Speed is uniquely positioned to serve as a cultural hub for the city as it is sited adjacent to the University of Louisville campus and the city’s busiest pedestrian thoroughfare—more than 5,000 people walk by the Museum site each day.

The new structure to the north of the Speed’s historic original building (see above) is designed to be largely transparent—literally opening the Speed to the community. The project will also feature a new Art Park and public piazza on the Speed’s 6 acre site. Boston-based landscape architects Reed-Hilderbrand are designing the plan for the site in a modern-day realization of an idea first conceived by the Olmsted Brothers. Olmsted and his sons, who created an extensive park system in Louisville , envisioned the Museum site as greenspace linking the University of Louisville campus and the rest of the city’s park system, but their plan was never fully realized.

The total master plan consists of three phases and is estimated eventually to cost approximately $79 million for construction and growth to the Museum’s endowment. The budget for the first phase is $57 million, which includes construction of the new North Building and the adjacent Art Park and piazza, as well as an increase to the Speed’s endowment. This campaign is the largest ever undertaken by a cultural organization in Louisville. The Speed is already more than halfway to its goal for Phase I with $31 million raised to date. Work on Phase I, which encompasses the building of a new structure to the north, is scheduled to begin in 2011 and to be completed in 2015.

The Speed’s first building was designed by Louisville-based architect Arthur Loomis and opened in 1927; new structures were added in 1957, 1972, 1983 and 1996. While these additions provided much-needed gallery and work spaces, they gradually obscured the clarity of the original plan and created an assortment of buildings that can be difficult to navigate. When completed, the new master plan will create a natural flow through the Museum and provide 45,000 square feet of exhibition space for the permanent collection, while increasing the Museum’s space for special exhibitions by 67%. Other features will include a new family education welcome center, multipurpose auditorium pavilion, outdoor performance spaces, new spaces for public programs and events, art storage and workrooms, as well as a restaurant, outdoor café, and museum store.

“The Speed’s historic building was designed to be a noble temple for art, which was common in late 19th- and early 20th- century museum planning in this country,” said architect Kulapat Yantrasast. “Our approach is to honor this historic structure and to rejuvenate its spirit for the future while creating a new facility that reflects and enhances the vibrant cultures of Louisville today. By opening the Museum up in all directions, I want to make everyone surprised and curious – allow all to see what’s happening inside and to draw them into the dynamic experience inside. People feel a sense of excitement and involvement with things they can discover themselves and we must encourage this – the new Speed will be an open invitation to everyone to come, enjoy and explore.”

The complete expansion and renovation will take place in three phases, allowing the collection and staff to remain on site and the Museum to remain open to the public throughout the project. As noted, Phase I is scheduled to begin in 2011 and be completed in 2015. This phase includes the construction of a new 53,000 square-foot building on the north side of the existing facility as well as the outdoor Art Park and public piazza. To provide better access for those visiting the Museum and using the University of Louisville campus, the entry drive will be re-routed and the exterior of the existing parking garage will be planted with flowering vines to “green” its facade. Phase II includes the renovation of the Speed’s currently facility and its adjacent grounds. Phase III focuses on the construction of a new 5,000 square-foot building on the south side of the Speed’s current campus. The project will be environmentally friendly, and the Speed is seeking a LEED certification.

As the Museum moves forward with its expansion project, it is also in the midst of a comprehensive and systematic review of its 14,000-piece collection. This process is identifying key areas for collection growth and refinement, with the goal of strengthening the Museum’s holdings and making the collection more relevant and meaningful for its community and visitors. The expansion will provide flexible exhibition spaces to present the Speed’s collection and new acquisitions for the public, along with new facilities for collection care and research.

The expansion and renovation plans can be seen in detail, along with a computer animated “fly through” of the new design, in the special exhibition Unveiling the New Speed: A Model of the Future, currently on view at the Speed Art Museum.

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