The brand new Art of the Americas Wing at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston threw open its glass doors last weekend. We were excited to attend opening day on Saturday and stepped into the new 121,307-square-foot "giant jewelry box" addition, and took in all that Foster + Partners had to offer. The glass-enclosed Shapiro Family Courtyard was designed as a focal gathering point for visitors to meet, relax, and bathe in natural light. Composed of double- and triple-glazed glass supported by a steel frame, the space is also lined with twenty 6-by-4-foot MDF light-diffusing panels that are installed in the facade. Arranged chronologically on four floors, the galleries lead visitors to travel through time as they rise vertically.
While the courtyard was absolutely teeming on Community Opening Day with Bostonian families and eager museum-trotters, the lingering question is: will the Courtyard space be a vivacious or uninhabited connecting space between the new wing to the rest of the museum? Unlike their famous canopied Kogod Courtyard at the Smithsonian in DC, Foster + Partners designed the MFA's to be freestanding with open-air landcapes on either side, in order to comply with Boston's seismic codes. The 'floating' staircase serves as an elegant passageway to the galleries, and also provides delicately articulated landings from which to view the entire space at three different levels. It houses a new Ken Oringer restaurant as well, which takes on a very dominant role in the center and will create themed menus to go with different art exhibitions. The tables and chairs may keep the space from looking empty when crowds are thin, but could take away from the open space necessary for the serendipitous acts of resting and gathering.
Nonetheless, the MFA is transforming the way it embraces contemporary art and modern design, and it is blazing a trail that would behoove the rest of Boston to follow.
More photos after the jump.
Join over 240,000 designers who stay up-to-date with the Core77 newsletter.
Test it out; it only takes a single click to unsubscribe