Trustees Select Architects For Hartford Times Building Conversion
October 21, 2005
By OSHRAT CARMIEL, Courant Staff Writer
Trustees of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art voted Thursday
to hire a Cambridge, Mass., architectural firm to transform the
former Hartford Times building into a modern annex of the nation's
oldest public art museum.
The vote to hire Bruner/Cott Architects ignites the Atheneum's long-held
plans to add more space, and marks the first sign of construction activity
at the spot that will eventually become the entertainment and retail portion
of Adriaen's Landing.
"We're moving ahead on all fronts," Willard
Holmes, the Atheneum's director, said Thursday.
The $17 million to $18 million expansion
into the Times building will follow a strict timeline, which, Holmes
said, "starts now." Bruner/Cott
has already invested hundreds of hours on a design for the Times
building, Holmes said. The project is expected to seek necessary permits
by May, with completion targeted for the end of 2007.
The museum board unanimously selected Bruner/Cott from a pool of three
finalists, which included the renowned Robert A.M Stern Architects, which
already has a toehold in the area. Stern is working with HB Nitkin Group
of Greenwich, the preferred developer for the retail and entertainment
complex at Adriaen's Landing.
Bruner/Cott won awards for its transformation of an old mill into the
Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, and for its work
on the University of Chicago's Bartlett Hall.
Most important to the museum board, though, was its vision for blending
the freestanding Times building, with its Ionic granite columns, into
the existing museum complex and Adriaen's Landing complex, while maintaining
its identity as a city landmark on Prospect Street.
Under an agreement with the state, which leased the 52,500-square-foot
Times building to the Atheneum for $2.5 million, the Atheneum must use
the lower floors for retail or food businesses that would connect the
building with the planned retail district that will eventually surround
It is likely that the Atheneum would open another restaurant and a second
gift shop in the Times building, Holmes said Thursday.
"They saw how to make the building come alive inside, how to make
a building that has a mixed-use work," Holmes said of the architects.
And they understood that museum buildings need to be flexible.
Flexibility is the key instruction that Holmes and Cheryl Chase, chairman
of the museum's building committee, gave to their chosen architect.
They want the Times building to be malleable, so that it could be easily
reconfigured as office or gallery space, storage space or public gathering
space. Its purpose, ultimately, will be to free up about 30,000 square
feet in the museum's main complex for use as exhibit space.
A likely scenario calls for relocating the museum's administrative offices,
archives and art and gift shop storage into the Times building. Holmes
said he was also interested in using space in the new building to expand
the range of art classes offered by the museum.
The new space would be able to be sectioned off so that late night classes,
parties or dinners could be held without having to keep the rest of the
"The Hartford Times building really allows us to change the way
we do things," Holmes said. "When you don't have enough space
to turn around in you tend to limit your thinking, you tend to
limit your imagination."
Holmes said the museum has the funds on hand to cover the full cost of
the renovation project.
The state has provided $6.5 million for the expansion and the museum
expects to have another $12 million ready for use, should all
its existing pledges be honored.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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