A Former High School Turned Art Museum Gives Way to Stunning Gallery Spaces
The Sarasota Art Museum showcases how a museum’s architecture can both shape a space and stand up as its own work of art
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So many of today's new museums are fashioned from repurposed spaces, but designing a worthwhile place to exhibit art is about more than just figuring out where to hang canvases in an old building. The Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College of Art & Design on Florida's southwest coast is an example of an exhibition space built with care. When it reopens in December, it will be a testament to the benefits of close, intuitive collaboration between art curator and architect, expressing reverence for the design that defines its past, while inspiring the artists of the present.
Designed by K/R Architects in partnership with executive architect Lawson Group Architects, the Sarasota Art Museum is a 20,000-square-foot space that spans across two historic buildings on the Sarasota High School campus, united by a central courtyard. Specifically, the museum makes use of Leo Elliott’s 1926 Collegiate Neo-Gothic building, as well as the adjacent, more modernist 1960 Paul Rudolph construction. The combined result is a diverse array of gallery spaces ranging from the quintessential "white box" look to more adventurous, industrial rooms. It also incorporates a variety of purpose-built niches in stairwells and other unexpected nooks for the display of site-responsive installations. The range of gallery aesthetics serves to both contextualize works that will span from the postwar era to the present, and foster an ongoing dialogue between the gallery and the exhibiting artists.
The Sarasota Art Museum’s six major façades, and disparate but coherent gallery spaces, are the product of close collaboration between K/R Architects principal Terry Riley and the museum’s executive director, Anne-Marie Russell. Their intuitive knowledge of and deep respect for their counterpart’s background made it easy for them to articulate a shared creative vision from the project’s outset. “We had a lot of conversations, and found we were very much in sync,” says Riley of working with Russell, having initially come on board as a design consultant before she chose K/R as its architect. “We both have a taste for the juxtaposition of the new and the historic, the rough and the fine, the abstract and the material, and that played out very well in the design of the museum.”
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