Tadao Ando's new gallery puts the landscape on show

The Pritzker laureate says his new Clark Visitor Center allows art and nature to be enjoyed simultaneously
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The Clark Visitor Center by Tadao Ando. Photo by Tucker Bair,  courtesy of The Clark
The Clark Visitor Center by Tadao Ando. Photo by Tucker Bair, courtesy of The Clark

Big city art institutions needn't worry about the natural world outshining their exhibits. Yet in Williamstown, Massachusetts, three hours north of Manhattan, the majesty of the Berkshire Hills are a match for the Clark Art Institute's collection of French impressionist works and classic American paintings.

With this in mind, the Pritzker laureate, Tadao Ando, unveiled the Clark's new 42,650-square-foot visitor center last week, explaining how he was “impressed by the 140-acre campus and landscape with rich natural beauty, surrounded by gentle hills, trees, and wetlands.”

 

The Clark Visitor Center by Tadao Ando. Photo by Tucker Bair, courtesy of The Clark
The Clark Visitor Center by Tadao Ando. Photo by Tucker Bair, courtesy of The Clark

His new, low building, constructed from concrete, blond wood, glass and red granite, offers more than 11,000 square feet of new gallery space, is offset by a one-acre tiered reflecting pool, and was conceived, the architect explained, as “a museum where art and nature can be simultaneously enjoyed, with expanses of glass and sweeping views as one moves between the gallery spaces."

'Expanses of glass' and 'sweeping views' are the kind of clichés that are often used to describe less than impressive works of contemporary architecture. Not so here though; Ando's new center really is a brilliant building.

 

The Clark Visitor Center by Tadao Ando. Photo by Tucker Bair, courtesy of The Clark
The Clark Visitor Center by Tadao Ando. Photo by Tucker Bair, courtesy of The Clark

The Architectural Digest lauded the new center as a fine addition to the work of an architect known, in the Digest's words, for “quiet, minimalist buildings that exhibit an almost spiritual affection for concrete.” Artnet, praised it too, but also reported that the uncharacteristic inclusion of red granite in the center was done, after some resistance on Ando's part, at the behest of Clark director Michael Conforti.

“We butted our heads from time to time,” the architect admitted, yet made light of his concession by, Artnet reports, dying a lock of his hair the same pink-red shade as the stone, in time for the opening - quite an unnatural addition for so harmonious a man.

 

The Clark Visitor Center by Tadao Ando. Photo by Tucker Bair, courtesy of The Clark
The Clark Visitor Center by Tadao Ando. Photo by Tucker Bair, courtesy of The Clark

Find out more about the new building here. Don't miss the Clark's new David Smith exhibition, and for a richer understanding of this maestro of concrete, browse through our Ando books here. Oh, and don't forget Concrete itself. 

The Clark Visitor Center by Tadao Ando. Photo by Tucker Bair, courtesy of The Clark
The Clark Visitor Center by Tadao Ando. Photo by Tucker Bair, courtesy of The Clark


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