A real art renaissance: Final phase of $145 million Clark renovation underway



One might say of the new Clark Art Institute that a river runs through it.

Once the last phase of the more than 10-year, $145 million expansion project at the Clark is complete, the newly installed hydrology system will reduce water usage on the entire campus by about 50 percent through the use of a number of rain gathering tactics and natural filtration.

According to Vicki Saltzman, director of communications at the Clark, sustainability and conservation are "a central focus in our planning. It is very important to the trustees and as a result, a central component of what we're doing here."

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The final phase of the project includes a new 44,400-square-foot visitor center designed by architect Tadao Ando. The visitor center will feature 11,000 square feet of new gallery space, a multipurpose pavilion for conferences and events, and dining and retail spaces. An all-glass Museum Pavilion will be the new entrance to the original museum building.

The final phase also provides for the expansion and renovation of the original museum building designed by Annabell Selldorf of Selldorf Architects, which includes 5,000 square feet of new gallery space and a meticulous restoration of the existing galleries.

The Manton Research Center will undergo renovation to the public areas, also designed by Selldorf Architects. New features include the Manton Study Center for Works on Paper and an adjoining gallery, a public reading room, bookstore and coffee bar.

The new campus and buildings will officially open on the Fourth of July.

Even the grounds have been redesigned, by Reed Hilderbrand, which enhances sustainability initiatives across the campus.

According to Saltzman, the three-tiered reflecting pool is the beating heart of a water management system that reduces the Clark's potable water consumption by half, or one million gallons annually.

"The reflection pool is magnificent, but also critical to the function of the whole sustainability program -- the heart of the hydrology plan," she noted.

There are a number of gathering points for rain water, including a permeable surface on the new parking lots, through which rain water flows to be diverted into the reflecting pool and from there into several water gardens. Another is on the roof, where there are rainwater gathering tanks that flow into the reflecting pool. In addition to feeding the reflecting pool, all the water gathered from this system will be used for non-potable water uses.

Around the reflecting pool will be manmade wetlands to filter the water before it flows into the storm water drainage system.

"Water leaving this campus will be cleaner than it was when it fell from the sky," Saltzman said. "It is a highly technological concept that follows the natural process."

The one-acre reflecting pool holds 361,845 gallons, but is no deeper than 13.5 inches.

In addition to the hydrology system, there are more walking trails and there will be 350 new trees on the 140-acre campus.

And for the visitor center, much of which is below ground, architect Ando designed the building with skylights and windows surrounded by reflective surfaces that drive the natural light below ground. Flooring in the galleries is composed of recycled oak.

"One of the reasons Ando was selected for this project is that he is a master of sending natural light into subterranean spaces," Saltzman said. "Even though many of these rooms are below ground, they will have the feeling of sunlight shining in."

There are crews totaling about 523 workers on the project from around the region.

The point of the expansion project, Saltzman said, is to "right size" the campus to better provide for the uses which have grown over the years, such as research and conferences.

"We feel very connected to the Berkshires," Saltzman said. "It is our home and we are very excited to bring this project to a close so we can share it with our families, friends and the rest of the world."

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