TACOMA – If there’s one thing Tom Kundig of Seattle-based Olson Kundig Architects seeks to prove in his addition to the Tacoma Art Museum in Washington State, it’s that ‘the West doesn’t stop in Wyoming’. The new gallery, which will house around 300 works comprising the museum’s recently acquired Haub Family Collection of Western American Art, doubles the exhibition space of the existing galleries dating from 2003.

Whereas Antoine Predock’s original building passively reflects the Tacoma setting from a distance in its smooth glass and steel surfaces, Kundig’s annex directly incorporates it into the construction. The single-floor volume extends out from the main section along the Pacific Avenue boundary, continuing the planar composition in rectangular, metallic cladding and a simple, flat awning. However, the exterior has been cast entirely in rugged, industrial earth tones in contrast to its neighbouring neutrals. A complex brise-soleil system along the front alternates fixed screens of vertical panels with moveable, interlacing horizontals that wheel along an overhead rail, like box-car doors – a tribute to Tacoma’s historic freight and shipping industries. The Richlite material composing the shades is synthesised from locally-sourced paper, fibre and phenolic resin. Employing the firm’s eccentric signature of manually operated contraptions, the apparatus is also controlled by a large hand-wheel just inside.

An entrance canopy overlaps the beginning of the intervention at the 10-m height of the existing volume, creating a welcome reception area and sheathing the transition between old and new. Not to forget its forebears, this structure recycles aluminium grating and stainless steel panels from demolished portions of the Predock building.

Photos Benjamin Benschneider, Kyle Johnson and Kevin Scott
Figures courtesy of Olson Kundig Architects