Snøhetta Reveals Design for the Expansion of Nebraska’s Largest Art Museum

Snøhetta has unveiled his latest project, the expansion and site redesign of the Joslyn Art Museum, in Nebraska. Developed in partnership with local architects Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture (APMA), the project seeks to add new gallery space, public gardens, and outdoor spaces as well as restore and modernize existing office spaces in the Joslyn Memorial building.

The expansion of the Joslyn Art Museum, in Nebraska, broke ground on July 27, 2021. The original Memorial Building, inaugurated in 1931, an Art Deco style structure, designed by John and Alan McDonald, has witnessed several expansions and additions over the years, the first in 1994, by Norman Foster. In fact, “the accumulation of discrete additions over time divided the site, creating a series of obstacles for easy public arrival and pedestrian connectivity that the current plan seeks to remedy”. Snøhetta and APMA proposed to expand the existing gallery space and reimagine the public arrival sequence.

Courtesy of Snøhetta
Courtesy of Snøhetta

It is an honor to design and now build an expansion to the Joslyn Art Museum. Working with the Joslyn team and APMA to think about the ways that the outdoor and indoor galleries can weave together has pushed us to reconsider how the Museum relates with its site and the public; we hope that the project will create a beautiful and welcoming new front door to the museum, inviting in many generations to come. — Kate Larsen, Snøhetta Director and architect / landscape architect.

Creating a new 42,000-square-foot pavilion, named after Rhonda and Howard Hawks of The Hawks Foundation, the intervention “will add light-filled galleries designed to meet the demands and explore the possibilities of a growing permanent collection”. Actually, the new building floats atop two granite garden walls and “springs from the current glass atrium as a curving, low-slung volume that gradually twists from glass-to-solid”. The ground floor spaces rise to the level of the existing buildings via a gently sloping, accessible walkway.

Courtesy of Moare
Courtesy of Moare
Courtesy of Moare
Courtesy of Moare

Our goal is to see a well-loved place through the eyes of a visitor, which is a learning process that’s only possible with great collaborative partners like the Museum, APMA, and a friendly and engaging community like Omaha. We’ve tried to create something uniquely tailored to the Joslyn Art Museum that both reflects and reinvents its surroundings and hope that the expansion, renovations, and site redesign will be transformative for Omaha and all who enjoy the Museum. — Aaron Dorf, Snøhetta Director and architect.

Courtesy of Moare
Courtesy of Moare

Increasing the connectivity between existing spaces, the project relocates the primary access to Joslyn, and redesigns the entry drive and entrance, to generate “a clear sense of front and a new beginning for the Museum experience”. The expansion relocates the front door to the edge of the entrance drive. On another hand, the sculpture gardens have been reimagined as new landscape spaces and outdoor “rooms”, wrapping the site, “weaving the buildings and outdoor spaces together around a spine formed by the existing installation The Omaha Riverscape by sculptor Jesús Moroles”. Moreover, the existing Discovery Garden is reconnected to the museum and other gardens by a new landscape for pedestrians with paths that reveal sculptures and native plantings along the way.

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