WILLIAMSTOWN -- With construction at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute's visitor, exhibition and conference center approaching the halfway mark, crews are working on a tight schedule to ensure the project's roof will be in place before the first snowfall.
"The building won't be closed off, but we're hoping to get the roofing finished to allow work to continue inside the building," Victoria "Vicki" Saltzman, director of communications, said Monday during a press tour of the site. "There are a number of different phases of construction, so we're approaching 50 percent completion. We feel good about where we are."
The 44,400-square-foot expansion, which includes 10,500 square feet of special exhibition space, contains a large reflection pool and turns the museum campus 180 degrees so it faces the 140-acre campus and the Stone Hill Center. The expansion and renovations to the museum's main galleries will be completed by June 2014, with the museum officially reopening all of its spaces in July 2014.
Despite the tight schedule, it isn't affecting the painstaking care and time crews from the Albany, N.Y.-based Turner Construction Co. are taking with the $145 million visitor, exhibition and conference center's design elements, Saltzman said.
Saltzman explained that many of the building's walls will be made from a very smooth "architectural" concrete -- a very significant trademark of world-renowned Japanese architect Tadao
"Mr. Ando wants only very small bubbles in the concrete," she said. "It takes a lot to do that. These smooth panels are slipped into the rebar framework before the concrete is poured. Once the concrete is poured, the crews need to shake the concrete to get the air bubbles out."
Saltzman added, "One of the details that is very typical of Mr. Ando's work are these small circles, where the rebar is joining the concrete. The circles will be capped. It's a trademark of Mr. Ando's concrete."
Another important detail of the project is a long promenade leading up to the new entrance of the museum, which is backed with a rose granite that was taken from the same quarry in Minnesota that the original granite making up the Manton Research building.
"The new entrance is going to be very low-key," she said. "Mr. Ando has said it's not about the arrival, but the impact of what is inside."
Once visitors have entered the museum, they'll be presented with two choices -- taking a right into the new conference area and special gallery, or a left into a ticketing area and retail space with a glass stairway. The glass stairway will lead downstairs into the area of the new café and to a glass connector that leads to the Clark's galleries.
"For years, people were entering the museum from the side," Saltzman said. "We'll now be entering from the backside, which has allowed us to open up an additional 5,400 square feet of gallery space, which over the years has been taken over by institutional creep. We're reclaiming that gallery space and will be able to use it as a space to orient our visitors to the Clark story and collection."
She added, "This project will right-size our facility to the programming we have now. The Clark is a different place than it was in the 1950s or 1970s. We'll be able to show art in the best possible way, and it will be accessed by our visitors in the best possible way. We're also going to be taking full advantage of our site. It's very exciting moment in our history."