Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Art meets science at Bainbridge museum - KITSAP SUN

By Tad Sooter 
Posted March 15, 2013 at 7:12 p.m.

The new building taking shape in Winslow goes to great lengths (and depths) to increase efficiency.
— Some of the most interesting features of the new Bainbridge Island Museum of Art building begin 400 feet underground.

That’s how deep the deepest of its 14 geothermal wells are drilled, wells that will harness stable temperatures underground to help heat and cool the building. High above, a rooftop photovoltaic array will harvest solar energy while a second-story garden recycles rainwater. Rows of louvers along the curving glass front of the building will open and close automatically to let in light or block out glare.

Gilbert Dominguez works this week inside the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, which is taking shape in Winslow. The museum is scheduled to open June 14.

“It will be a reminder to visitors that this building is alive,” museum Executive Director Greg Robinson said. “It’s changing and adapting to the environment.”

The museum, now in its final phase of construction at Highway 305 and Winslow Way, is being built to showcase energy efficient design alongside Northwest artwork. The structure is expected to qualify for a gold rating under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, which awards points for energy conservation and use of recyclable materials among other categories. More than 90 percent of the construction materials used in the museum can be recycled at the end of the building’s predicted 100 year life span, architect Matthew Coates said.

All told, renewable energy will offset about one third of the museum’s energy needs. Coates said that figure is “significant,” given the demands of lighting, heating and climate control in a 20,000-square-foot museum.

“Museums are notoriously energy inefficient,” he said.

The green features will soon be put to the test. The museum recently announced a final $1.2 million fundraising push to close out its $15.6 million capital campaign. A grand opening is set for June 14.
As interesting as the design work was, Robinson said he is eager to finish construction and bring in the art.

“We didn’t just set out to build a building,” he said. “We set out to open a museum and a new cultural amenity.”

That quest began in earnest about three years ago when a board of directors formed and launched a capital campaign. The museum completed a first phase of construction 2011, which included an auditorium, classrooms and a small gallery. The spaces were made available for community events.
The full museum was expected to open in the summer of 2012. The date was pushed back a year as donations lagged.

Now fundraising and construction are on track for an early summer opening. Saws and hammers clamored inside the building during a hard-hat tour early this week.

The museum’s most prominent feature is the two-story curved glass facade, which opens a cutaway view of the museum’s interior. The design was the favorite among 12 presented to members of the public during planning meetings.

“I think it creates a graceful presence on the street,” Coates said.

Visitors who enter from the main Winslow Way entrance will be greeted by a reception space, bookended by a gift shop an a “bistro” dining area. The museum’s permanent art collection will rotate through a 1,000-square-foot gallery on the main floor.

A broad staircase leads to a second floor landing with a view of the new Waypoint park and a broad stretch of Winslow Way. The expanse of glass keeps the museum connected to the world around it, Coates said.

“Having a lot of transparency and allowing that connection was one of the most important parts of the design,” he said. “From the outside you’ll be able to see people inside experiencing art, and from the inside you’ll look out and see your community members.”

The second floor art experience begins with the “Beacon” gallery, sized for small solo artist shows. It leads to the museum’s main gallery, a 2,500-square-foot space for traveling exhibits. Movable walls will give curators flexibility to section out the room as needed. Behind the main exhibition room, another small gallery lined with glass cases will display three dimensional pieces and touchable artwork.

Several doors on the second floor open onto terrace overlooking Winslow Way. The patio is bare now, but will soon be outfitted with a rain garden courtesy of island gardeners George and David Lewis, of Little & Lewis fame.

“They’re doing a simple but very beautiful design,” Robinson said.

Other museum spaces are hidden from public view. In the basement, an archive room will store artwork when it’s not on display upstairs. The archive is climate controlled and secured against burglary.

“I like to tell people on tours that they’ll probably never see this room again,” museum Development Director Renate Raymond said.

The museum is still collecting pieces for its permanent display but plans to showcase a diverse assortment of contemporary art representing Puget Sound and West Sound. As for the temporary displays, Robinson said the museum sees itself as a “launching pad for new artists.”

“How wonderful it would be if in 20 years we’re borrowing work from another regional museum that came from an artist who we debuted for the first time,” he said.

Robinson expects to announce the museum’s first offering of programs and exhibits next month as the June opening nears. General admission to the museum will be free and exact hours have yet to be set.
The museum will operate in an “open house” format for the first six weeks after opening, meaning visitors can view exhibits and participate in workshops as they wish. After six weeks the museum will begin selling tickets for some of its lectures, classes and special events.

And after that, “we’re open for the next hundred years,” Robinson said.

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