MEMPHIS BROOKS MUSEUM OF ART SELECTS
HERZOG & DE MEURON TO DESIGN MAJOR NEW BUILDING
International Firm to Partner with Memphis-based Firm archimania on Riverfront Project
Memphis, TN -- Memphis Brooks Museum of Art has selected the Pritzker Prize-winning firm Herzog & de Meuron, Basel/New York, as design consultant for its new $105 million facility overlooking the Mississippi River in downtown Memphis. The Memphis-based archimania will serve as architect of record. The news was announced today by the institution, the oldest and largest art museum in Tennessee and a cultural anchor for a tri-state area that includes Arkansas and Mississippi.
The new Brooks will be the jewel in the crown of a newly animated and accessible Memphis riverfront. First-phase development is already underway on plans to connect six miles of the riverfront with parks, walking paths, and civic and recreational structures, as conceived by the Chicago-based firm Studio Gang for the Mayor’s Riverfront Task Force in partnership with Memphis River Parks Partnership.
This commitment to the creation of civic spaces for the benefit of the entire community echoes the earlier wave of ‘City Beautiful’ planning that a century ago endowed Memphis with gracious boulevards and greenspaces, including Overton Park, where the museum has resided since 1916. The museum’s Beaux arts building and two subsequent additions no longer accommodate the requirements of an accredited art museum the size of the Brooks.
“The reimagining of the Memphis riverfront presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enhance the Brooks’s capacity to serve the community and at the same time create an inspiring work of architecture that reflects Memphis’s unique culture, history and location,” says Deborah Craddock, president of the Brooks board.
“We have selected Herzog & de Meuron to partner with us because we respect their design philosophy: each project design evolves from a different and fitting formal response to the site and is then realized with unrivaled sensitivity to materials and craftsmanship,” says executive director Emily Ballew Neff. “We’re embarking on a journey to create a landmark that will have enormous impact.”
High atop a natural stone bluff, the new museum will face westward towards the Mississippi River and the Arkansas floodplain. At 112,000 sq. ft., about 25% larger in size than the existing facility, the program provides expanded galleries that will showcase the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions and purpose-designed spaces that will provide needed classrooms, theater, dining facility and museum store. Collections storage and art handling areas will more than double. A sculpture garden will provide opportunities for changing displays of works of art as well as for civic gatherings and public performances. A large subterranean garage will accommodate parking.
“The Brooks’s new location is an economic stimulus for the city and region that will boost private development and job creation—we’ve seen it happen in other cities,” says Mayor Jim Strickland. He continues, “For the first time in decades Memphis is restoring its connection to the Mississippi River waterfront and the public promenade our founders envisioned there. In our bicentennial year, we are again embracing the Mississippi River as our greatest asset.”
The architect selection committee’s unanimous decision, ratified by the Board of Trustees, comes after more than a year of planning and research entailing a comprehensive internal planning step; public engagement sessions; the casting of a wide net for qualifications (RFQ) to a global range of architecture firms with extensive experience in museum design; and a day-long site visit in fall 2018 for interested architects. Twenty-two firms from around the U.S. and world, including four from Tennessee, responded with detailed submissions. The committee then visited relevant buildings of a short list of candidates and, as a final step, held interviews on-site. Finalists were: Diller Scofidio + Renfro, New York; Johnston Marklee, Los Angeles, Cambridge, MA; and Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), Rotterdam and New York.
“Herzog & de Meuron is exceptional among the architectural firms that design art museums for the way it creates galleries for a whole range of works of art,” notes Neff. “Several architects at Herzog & de Meuron also happen to have spent formative years in and around Memphis. These team members will provide a kind of local knowledge that will surely contribute to the next project phase—design concept.” The museum expects to unveil the design in early 2020.
“We are thrilled to have been selected to work on the new Brooks,” says Jacques Herzog, co-founder of Herzog & de Meuron. “In writing the next chapter for the Brooks Museum and its collection, we have to look to the future, while being cognizant of a rich history.”
Ascan Mergenthaler, Senior Partner and Partner in Charge, notes, “We are very impressed with the spirit of Memphis and its people. The Brooks on the bluff has the potential to become a truly civic building where the people of Memphis will not only go for encounters with great art, but also to meet, hang out, and enjoy the many offerings of a highly public cultural building at an outstanding site.”
The Brooks’ building project is primarily privately funded, with a substantial portion of the cost already secured from individual patrons and arts supporters. The museum anticipates that it will take four to five years to design and build the facility.
About the Downtown Site
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art’s new home occupies a corner plot on Front Street at Monroe Street on land once inhabited by the Chickasaws and, before that, the mound builders (Mississippian Culture). In the 19th century, the district grew as Memphis’s old Cotton Row.
To the west, the site hovers above the riverfront, Riverside Drive, railway lines and cobblestone landings; to the east, on street level, the historic cotton brokerage district and greater downtown. Within a block are the Cossitt branch of the Memphis Public Library; The Cotton Museum, located in the 1910 Cotton Exchange; and the University of Memphis’s Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
The Brooks will be only a few minutes’ walk away from the first major downtown museum, the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel, a complex of museums and historic buildings that tells the story of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from its roots in slavery, Reconstruction, and the Jim Crow era to the present day. The new Brooks will also be a short drive from the National Ornamental Metal Museum just south of downtown.
After decades of struggle to attract businesses, downtown Memphis is experiencing a new wave of corporate investment, including FedEx Logistics’s move to the former Gibson Guitar factory, the renovation of the historic Central Train Station for hotel and mixed use, and the decision of the agricultural start-up firm Indigo Ag to shift it North American headquarters from Boston to the Toyota Center here.
“We are proud to welcome the Brooks downtown,” says Beverly Robertson, president of the Greater Memphis Chamber and former president of the National Civil Rights Museum. “In its new home, the museum will augment downtown’s portfolio of cultural assets, extend visitor stays and significantly stimulate the local economy.”
Herzog & de Meuron
The practice established by two young Swiss architects in Basel some 40 years ago has grown into a world-renowned global firm. In this country alone, Herzog & de Meuron has designed such iconic museum buildings as the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, the de Young Museum, San Francisco, and the Pèrez Art Museum, Miami. In scale, its noted museum successes range from the Parrish Art Museum in Long Island New York (2012), a triumph of simplicity and interpretation of the vernacular, to the conversion of the giant Bankside Power Station into the Tate Modern (2000).
Herzog & de Meuron has been honored with a number of architecture’s most prestigious awards, including the Pritzker Prize (2006),Stirling Prize (2003), RIBA Royal Gold Medal (2007), and Praemium
Imperiale (2007). In January this year, the Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron Kabinett, a charitable organization established by the firm’s partners, donated a selection of its models, drawings, and other materials to the Museum of Modern Art. https://www.herzogdemeuron.com
Selected to collaborate with Herzog & de Meuron is Memphis-based archimania, a force for architectural innovation in the American South and a collective recognized nationally for work spanning building types and scale.
Among the recent cultural institutions designed by archimania are the national award winning Ballet Memphis and Hattiloo Theatre projects that are helping to revitalize one of the city’s historic districts; Conservation Hall at the Governor’s Residence in Oak Hill, recognized by Architectural Digest as one of 11 Amazing Examples of Subterranean Architecture in the World; and The Scheidt Family Music Center at the University of Memphis, which is slated for construction later this year.
Led by Todd Walker, FAIA, founding partner, and Barry Alan Yoakum, FAIA, partner, archimania is a leading practitioner of sustainable design. It has designed numerous “firsts” in Memphis, the region, and nationally. It recently competed the State of Tennessee’s first Zero Energy Ready building, the I-55 Welcome Center with a projected 900,000 visitors a year, and two projects that are on-track to become the region’s first Zero Emissions, Zero Energy, and LEED Certified facilities in their respective building types.
Last year, Architect magazine named archimania as #8 in design nationally in its annual Architect50 rankings. The architectural firm has garnered more than 160 AIA awards since its inception and is the American Institute of Architects most award winning firm in the history of Tennessee.
Todd Walker, FAIA, says, “Speaking for everyone at archimania, we are excited and thrilled to be working with this wonderful team of the Brooks along with Herzog & de Meuron to develop what will be the most significant cultural center for our community to share with the world.”
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art
The permanent collection of the Brooks Museum ranges from antiquity to the present day, highlights including the Samuel H. Kress Collection of Renaissance and Baroque paintings; 18th-century British portraiture; British and American decorative arts; American art by Winslow Homer, Georgia O’Keeffe, Thomas Hart Benton, Romare Bearden, and Marisol, among others; photographs by William Eggleston and Ernest C. Withers, among others; contemporary art; and work by regional artists. For the last 15 years, the museum has devoted 96% of its acquisition funds to building an important collection of African-American art.
The roots of the museum extend back to the first decade of the 20th century, when local leadership enlisted the Swiss artist Carl Gutherz as an advisor. The private group then set out to raise funds for a city art museum with plans calling for school children to collect discarded wastepaper, linen, cotton rags and rubber—first graders, on Mondays; second graders, Tuesdays; and third graders, Wednesdays.
The dream became a reality when Bessie Vance Brooks donated $100,000 in memory of her late husband and the Brooks Memorial Art Gallery, designed by the New York architect James Gamble Rogers, opened in 1916--without a collection, staff or exhibition schedule. Among the first works of art to enter the collection were portraits by Cecilia Beaux and William Merritt Chase; today, the Brooks’ holdings exceed 10,000 works.
May 21, 2019, 8 a.m. CST / 9 a.m., EST
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