Public Facilities

Joslyn Art Museum Expansion: Contemporary Art Museum

Snøhetta has unveiled its design for a new expansion and site redesign at the  Joslyn Art Museum, developed in partnership with local architects Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture (APMA). The 42,000-square-foot addition will add light-filled galleries designed to meet the demands and explore the possibilities of a growing permanent collection, including works from the nationally renowned Phillip G. Schrager Collection of Contemporary Art.

In addition to the new gallery spaces, the architectural team will design more than three acres of rejuvenated public gardens and outdoor spaces on the Museum site and restore and modernize existing office spaces in the Joslyn Memorial building. The expansion renews Joslyn’s status as Omaha’s premier cultural hub for the visual arts by reorienting the Museum grounds around a reimagined public arrival anchored by new community spaces that support the galleries.

While the existing monolithic buildings are anchored more heavily to the ground, the new building floats atop two granite garden walls, with a transparent first floor enclosing a new atrium lobby, Museum store, and a multi-function community space. These ground floor spaces gradually rise to the level of the existing buildings via a gently sloping, accessible walkway. The weightless effect of the hovering expansion recalls the striking cloud formations that blanket the Great Plains as well as the deep overhangs and horizontal expression of regional Prairie Style architecture. 

The horizontal texture of the new façade takes its cue from the stacked stone steps of the Memorial Building’s monumental Grand Staircase that emerge from the East side of the existing buildings in parallel with the expansion. The façade’s light-colored precast panels are embedded with vibrant pops of pink aggregate that reflect the rich, rose-colored marble of the existing buildings.

The new ground floor spaces gradually rise to the level of the existing buildings via a gently sloping, accessible walkway. The weightless effect of the hovering expansion recalls the striking cloud formations that blanket the Great Plains as well as the deep overhangs and horizontal expression of regional Prairie Style architecture. The galleries showcase a range of new art while allowing for increased public access to more of Joslyn’s collections, which span 3,000 years of art and include Native American objects and works on paper. New classrooms and public spaces support greater breadth and depth of public programming and art education.

At the southeast corner of the site on Dodge Street, the visual barrier of the existing retaining wall has been lowered to reveal the Memorial Building and its Grand Staircase, a change complemented by a new Great Lawn framed by native grasses and vibrant meadow plantings that will create colorful variation throughout the seasons. The existing Discovery Garden is reconnected to the museum and other gardens by a new landscape for pedestrians with paths that reveal sculptures and native plantings along the way.

When the expansion is complete, returning visitors to Joslyn Art Museum will immediately notice important changes to the grounds that clarify their arrival and increase the connectivity between existing spaces. The primary access to Joslyn has been relocated to the northern edge of the site, off Davenport Street, leading to a redesigned entry drive that sits on axis with a new, raised sculpture garden and Museum entrance, creating a clear sense of front and a new beginning for the Museum experience.  New sculpture gardens have been reimagined as a sweeping collection of landscape spaces and outdoor “rooms” that wrap the site, weaving the buildings and outdoor spaces together around a spine formed by the existing installation The Omaha Riverscape by sculptor Jesús Moroles.

Honoring Joslyn’s identity while opening a more porous, inviting front, the expansion marks a new chapter in the Museum’s vision for public access to the arts through a comprehensive redesign. The expansion builds upon Joslyn’s rich history as an iconic landmark and cultural hub as it creates a dynamic, inclusive design that is open to all.

The pavilion will be named after Rhonda and Howard Hawks of The Hawks Foundation. The Hawks Foundation provides grants for higher education, social services, Christian organizations, and the arts.

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