Text description provided by the architects. After years of planning, the Norton Museum of Art is re-opening to the public with a new wing and sculpture garden designed by Foster + Partners in collaboration with Boston-based design firm CBT. The new West Wing will completely transform the Norton Museum of Art’s 6.3-acre campus, improving Museum accessibility and openness while restoring the logic and clarity of the building’s original 1941 design by locating the new entrance along the main thoroughfare of the South Dixie Highway. The wing will also enhance the experience of interacting with art by reinforcing the relationship between the building and the landscape, creating a new social space for the community.
The Norton was built in 1941 as an elegant series of Art Deco-inspired single-story pavilions around a central courtyard. Subsequent expansions broke the symmetry of the original arrangement and undermined its axial configuration through the relocation of the main entrance to the side of the building. The new masterplan restores the cohesion of the original plan by reasserting the clarity of the main circulation, balancing the different building heights and introducing new exhibition galleries and education spaces to the site. In addition to providing new gallery spaces, the design carefully peels away layers of subsequent extensions to reveal the original fabric of the historic galleries.
The campus now provides a much-anticipated outdoor setting for the museum’s growing sculpture collection and reinforces the relationship between the building and the landscape. It creates an enhanced visitor experience with a strong community focus while laying the foundation for the future growth of the museum as one of Florida’s leading cultural institutions.
A new entrance on the South Dixie Highway to the west redefines the museum’s relationship with the city. One of the main protagonists that informed the design of the new entrance plaza is an iconic Banyan tree that was planted when the museum was first built: the extension’s new shimmering roof curves around the tree’s canopy, uniting the entire ensemble while sheltering the entrance plaza. Behind the canopy, three double-height pavilions mediate the low-rise galleries and the existing three-story Nessel Wing, unifying the composition through a palette of white, horizontally-banded stucco. The pavilions house a state-of-the-art auditorium, the Great Hall, which will be the new social heart for the local community: an event space, education center, museum shop and restaurant that provides shaded outdoor seating overlooking the garden.
The garden is an integral part of the masterplan that reinforces the relationship between the building and the landscape that celebrates Florida’s rich and diverse flora. Taking advantage of the Florida climate, the landscaping of the gardens incorporates native trees and flowers to provide shaded walkways and an intimate setting for visitors to enjoy the artwork. Corresponding to the canopies of the trees, large overhangs and shaded colonnades ensure that the intense sunlight is kept out, whilst the subtropical light and lush views can still be enjoyed as part of the visitor experience.