Foster + Partners have revealed plans to extend Florida’s Norton Museum of Art by creating a beautiful outdoor gallery landscape that extends from a giant Banyan Tree and brings nature and life back into the museum's public spaces.
The Norton Museum of Art in Florida’s West Palm Beach was built in 1941 to house the art collection of industrialist Ralph Hubbard Norton and his wife. The museum was laid out by architect Marion Sims Wyeth as an elegant series of Art Deco-inspired single-storey pavilions around a central courtyard. Subsequent expansions have broken the original design of the museum and the creation of an additional carpark to the south of the museum led to a great shift in structure.
Foster + Partners’ plan seeks to re-engage with Wyeth’s original vision and bring beauty and symmetry back to the museum. The museum is being gradually reconstructed and its centrepiece will be the surrounding subtropical garden. The garden is to create an extension of the museum and provide a set of “outdoor galleries” that feature sculptures and natural landscaping.
The new building design features white stone as its main composition, unifying all branches of the museum together, including the pavilions that sit throughout the garden. A museum shop and restaurant are included and the new dining area will feature independently from the museum, allowing for active public engagement throughout the day and into the night.
The new “outdoor museum” concept branches from a Banyan Tree, which was planted when the institution first opened in 1941, and will provide a foundation for the project that has both historical and natural significance.
The garden will replace a carpark on the southern side of the museum and will bring natural life back into the area. It will be filled with 272 trees and shrubberies that have been specially selected to suit Florida’s erratic, subtropical climate, and will provide a stunning, natural, public space. Special trees will be featured including eight select West Indian mahogany trees, and a range of Gumba Limbo trees and False Tamarind. The trees will grow to create a colourful canopy that will provide natural shade and house the lively al-fresco dining space.
Eleven sculptures will feature in the garden, donated by philanthropists Pamela and Robert B Goergen with walkways winding between them to create the “natural equivalent of corridor spaces” connecting the galleries.
"The museum has important works of public art, but has never really had the opportunity, or the ability, to be able to fully embrace the local landscape and create outdoor spaces," said Lord Norman Foster, as the design was unveiled during a press conference.
"We're thinking about how landscapes can create a series of outdoor rooms. Once you get the vegetation and the evaporative cooling you can make this a very comfortable environment.”
The design will add a new 5,480 square metre wing, housing an auditorium, great hall and education centre. The building will be topped with a huge roof that curves around the 80-year-old Banyan tree.
Foster + Partners' other plans for the museum include renovating six 1920s houses, situated south of the garden, to create artist residences and a home for the museum's CEO, Hope Alswang.
“From the beginning, we have conceived of the Norton expansion as an opportunity to create a new Norton — one that embraces its original design, while also creating a more welcoming and inviting campus,” explains Foster.
“In our masterplan, it was important for us to define the Norton’s sense of place — in this case Florida’s lush subtropics. To do so, we conceptualised a museum within a garden. We are creating verdant spaces for art and programming that extends the museum beyond its walls.”