A Literary Look at the Renzo Piano wing at the Gardner Museum

By danielle

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~by blogger Frank Brunelle

If one were to make an analogy between a literary work and the design of the new wing of the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum by Renzo Piano, than one might look to Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. But whereas Mr. Diamond talks about how one culture may overtake another mainly by environmental differences, Mr. Piano’s buildings are Glass Diagonals and Steel that combine to unite the inhabitants of the structure with the environment. Taking a page from Mies van der Rohe who strived towards an architecture with a minimal framework in order to give a maximum of free flowing space the new wing of the Gardner indeed complements and enhances the old wing and embraces the air, the sky, the light and the earth. And where the old wing in its DNA is a part of the Renaissance not only in art but also in quality of dim lighting of the era – by contrast, the new Renzo Piano designed wing opens up to the sky and integrates into the exterior architecture of the Gardner by offering the inhabitants the opportunity to gaze upon it when going upstairs or when using its glass and steel covered walkway on the first floor.

It was a pleasant surprise to be asked to participate in a photo contest as I stood in line waiting to go in to view the new structure. It reminded me of another interaction I had as a student at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. As an art student there, I did a performance piece employing a rooster and two gallons of paint – one of blue and one of violet – in the Mies van der Rohe designed Student Union building.

The difference this time is that the tracks I left are digital and are images of the building rather than part of it… A difference I am certain the Gardner Museum appreciates.

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