In 1960 a young Japanese architecture professor named Fumihiko Maki completed his first-ever commission — Steinberg Hall — while teaching at Washington University in St. Louis. For years that building, which showcased the university’s renowned art collection, represented Maki’s only built work in the United States.
Four decades later, Maki is among the world’s premier architects, a Pritzker Prize-winner known for creating monumental spaces that fuse Eastern and Western sensibilities. Current projects include both the $330 million United Nations expansion in Manhattan and Tower 4 at the former World Trade Center site (scheduled to open in 2008 and 2011, respectively).
Now Maki has returned to Washington University as architect of the new Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, a dramatic, light-filled structure that will showcase the university’s internationally renowned art collection.
The Kemper Art Museum is both the centerpiece and the public face of the university’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. The five-building, $56.8 million complex also features Maki’s new Earl E. and Myrtle E. Walker Hall, which will house studios, classrooms and offices for art students and faculty.
Both new buildings will be dedicated Oct. 25. Festivities will also celebrate the Sam Fox School, which was created last year to link the museum and Washington University’s nationally ranked College of Art, College of Architecture, Graduate School of Art and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design.
“The Sam Fox School will strengthen the arts at Washington University by drawing together our distinguished art, architecture and museum programs,” asserts Chancellor Mark. S. Wrighton. “It will foster a collaborative, interdisciplinary environment in which students and faculty can strive for excellence and distinction.”
A five-building complex
In addition to the Kemper Art Museum and Walker Hall, the Sam Fox School includes two recently renovated buildings, the Beaux Arts-era Bixby and Givens halls. These house additional facilities for Art as well as for the College of Architecture and the Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design.
Rounding out the complex is Maki’s original commission, Steinberg Hall, which will be renovated during the 2006-07 school year. Once completed, Steinberg Hall will include new art and architecture studios as well as the school’s primary auditorium.
“Maki’s intimate relationship with Washington University makes him the ideal architect for the Sam Fox School,” stresses Dean Carmon Colangelo. “His designs are thoughtful, innovative and inspirational. In many ways, they exemplify our own aspirations and our vision for the future of design and the visual arts.
“At a time when art is no longer produced just in the studio, students benefit from interdisciplinary dialogues and the sharing of new technologies,” Colangelo continues. “The Sam Fox School has both the opportunity and the resources to encourage and nurture individual talents while promoting community engagement, critical thinking and creative production in the art, architecture and design worlds.”
Costs for the new construction and renovations have been met through the allocation of university funds and the receipt of outside commitments. These include $10 million in gifts and bequests from St. Louis philanthropist Sam Fox, the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Harbour Group Ltd., and a $5 million gift from the family of the late Mildred Lane Kemper — $1 million from her husband, James M. Kemper Jr., chairman emeritus of Commerce Bancshares Inc.; $1 million from their son, David W. Kemper, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Commerce Bancshares as well as chairman of Washington University’s Board of Trustees, and his wife, Dotty Kemper; and $3 million from the William T. Kemper Foundation.
Other leadership commitments include a major gift from Earl E. and Myrtle E. Walker, CEO and vice president, respectively, of Carr Lane Manufacturing Co., as well as gifts from Eric P. and Evelyn Newman; the Gertrude and William A. Bernoudy Foundation; Kenneth and Nancy Kranzberg; Linda and Harvey Saligman; Fred Kemp; the children of Florence Steinberg and Richard K. Weil; May Department Stores Co.; the Caleb C. and Julia W. Dula Educational and Charitable Foundation; the Mary Ranken Jordan and Ettie A. Jordan Charitable Foundation; and Yvette Drury and John P. Dubinsky. Challenge grants were awarded by the J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation and the Kresge Foundation.
Maki, who serves as design architect, selected Harish Shah — a principal of Shah Kawasaki Architects, based in Oakland, Calif., and a 1973 graduate of Washington University — to serve as project architect. St. Louis-based McCarthy Building Cos. Inc. is construction manager.
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum
The 65,000-square-foot, limestone-clad Kemper Art Museum — which more than triples the exhibition space previously available in Steinberg Hall — is ideally suited to the display of large-scale and new-media work.
On the main floor, the central, barrel-vaulted Saligman Family Atrium is flanked on either end by open, curtain-wall glass entrances. Soaring 25-foot ceilings, generous skylights and banks of clerestory windows define the Special Exhibitions Gallery and the College of Art Gallery, both located just off the atrium. The floating limestone Freund Family Grand Staircase brings visitors up to the luminous Bernoudy Permanent Collection Gallery, also distinguished by large, recessed skylights.
“Maki’s interiors are informed by a modernist sensibility, which he realizes through a proportional application of grids and geometric forms,” says Sabine Eckmann, Ph.D., director and chief curator of the Kemper Art Museum. “The formal effect is softened by an integrated use of natural light that creates a spacious but intimate atmosphere and allows for relations between inside and outside.”
The elevated 5,000-square-foot Florence Steinberg Weil Sculpture Plaza extends the museum’s exhibition space outdoors from the May Department Stores Company Foyer on the building’s north side. Alongside works from the collection — including the museum’s signature Five Rudders (1964) by Alexander Calder — the sculpture garden will feature a site-specific installation commissioned from Dan Peterman. The Chicago artist employs a post-minimalist aesthetic to create functional objects made of post-consumer materials.
Other recent acquisitions — purchased specifically for the new building —will be installed in the atrium. These include a monumental canvas, MM6 (2001), by Michel Majerus; and Olafur Eliasson’s spectacular Your Imploded View (2001), a highly-polished, 600-pound aluminum sphere that swings like a pendulum from the atrium’s vaulted ceiling.
“Both works deliberately negotiate the impact of new technology on the production and perception of art,” Eckmann notes. “While Majerus combines the aesthetics of electronic art with the medium of painting in the 21st century, Eliasson’s installation, through its reflective and distorting qualities, implicates viewers in both the art and the surrounding architecture. It shows us caught in the act of seeing ourselves see.”
In addition to galleries, the Kemper Art Museum will include:
• The 3,000-square-foot Newman Money Museum, featuring displays on the history of coins and currency, a numismatic library, a curator’s office and work areas for visiting scholars.
• The 12,000-square-foot Kenneth and Nancy Kranzberg Library, housing books, a slide library and other research materials for art, architecture and art history.
• Offices and classrooms for the Department of Art History & Archaeology in Arts & Sciences.
• The Whitaker Learning Lab, a new-media center.
• The Lehmann Museum Classroom.
• The Kemp Reading Room.
• The Lopata Art History Classroom.
• State-of-the-art storage and support facilities.
Earl E. and Myrtle E. Walker Hall
Walker Hall, located immediately east of the Kemper Art Museum, contains approximately 38,000 square feet of art studio space as well as the Shapleigh Courtyard and Terrace, enclosed along the north side, for materials and fabrication.
Like the Kemper Art Museum, Walker Hall is defined by its open, flexible floor plan and abundant natural light. Ceramics, woodworking and metalworking facilities are located on the main floor, with undergraduate sculpture studios on the lower level. The upper level features undergraduate painting as well as the interdisciplinary Nancy Spirtas Kranzberg Studio for the Illustrated Book.
All studios showcase state-of-the-art systems for art production as well as fluid floor plans designed to facilitate collaborative study and discussion.
Jeff Pike, dean of Art, points out that Walker Hall, along with recent renovations to Bixby and Givens halls, will allow programs currently housed at satellite facilities — some located more than a mile from the university’s Hilltop Campus — to return to campus for the first time in decades. This, he explains, will promote a renewed sense of community within the College of Art while also fostering greater interaction among other units of the Sam Fox School.
“The opening of Walker Hall and the Kemper Art Museum will transform the experience of students and faculty in Art and Architecture,” Pike says. “For the first time in decades, all of the university’s undergraduate design and visual arts programs will be located in a single, central location.”
Collections and exhibitions
The Kemper Art Museum is home to one of the finest university art collections in the United States, including important paintings, sculptures, photographs and installations by major 19th-, 20th- and 21st-century American and European artists.
The museum will open with a series of thematic exhibitions in the Bernoudy Permanent Collection Gallery. Sections will highlight landscapes, portraits, abstraction and the penetration of the everyday into the sphere of art. Also opening are two special exhibitions focusing on visual artists who embrace the expansion of disciplinary boundaries, as well as a pair of faculty-curated shows.
“The new museum building offers tremendous potential as an active, energetic and stimulating interface between the praxis and interpretation of art and design — the making of art and its critical analysis,” Eckmann says. “Importantly, the museum provides spacious galleries for faculty- and student-curated exhibitions, thus encouraging an atmosphere of intellectual collaboration and experimentation.”
Also on view will be a handful of special exhibitions:
[Grid < > Matrix], the first installment in the loan series “Screen Arts and New Media Aesthetics,” will explore differences and similarities resulting from the use of the grid and the matrix as modes of structuring visual space since the late 19th century. Co-curated by Eckmann and Lutz Koepnick, Ph.D., professor of German and of film and media studies, both in Arts & Sciences, the exhibition juxtaposes analog grids by artists such as Piet Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy with the use of digital matrices found in works by Andreas Gursky, Jeffrey Shaw and Olafur Eliasson.
Models and Prototypes, drawn predominantly from the permanent collection, will examine the growing importance of the model as a visual strategy since the early 20th century and will demonstrate how architectural practices have transferred into the sphere of the visual arts. Curated by Catharina Manchanda, Ph.D., curator of the Kemper Art Museum, the exhibition will consider conceptual, structural and social models by Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Kosuth, Daniel Buren, Ed Ruscha, Joseph Beuys, Isa Genzken, Mark Bennett and Katrin Sigurdardottir, among others.
Meanwhile, Michael Byron, professor of painting, will inaugurate the College of Art Gallery with Pure Invention: Tom Friedman, an exhibition of work by the distinguished sculptor and Washington University alumnus.
Elizabeth Childs, Ph.D., associate professor of Art History & Archaeology, and Lisa Bulawsky, associate professor of printmaking, will inaugurate the museum’s Teaching Gallery with a display on the making and historicizing of printmaking. Located within the Bernoudy Gallery, the Teaching Gallery will allow faculty and students to integrate works from the museum collection into undergraduate and graduate curricula.
“With the College of Art Gallery and the Teaching Gallery, faculty members from all disciplines can propose exhibitions,” Manchanda points out. “This offers exciting possibilities for cross-disciplinary dialogue among faculty, students, art professionals and the public.
“The public will have many opportunities to participate in the latest intellectual developments on campus,” Manchanda concludes. “Faculty and students will be able to translate their research and teaching into visual programs.”