Walters to close, fix up wing

January 16, 1998|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN ARCHITECTURE CRITIC

The Walters Art Gallery plans to close its 1974 wing this summer so it can start a $16 million overhaul of the building that will take three years to complete.

Galleries on the second and fourth floors of the 1974 building will be closed to the public by mid-June, and the entire building will be closed starting Aug. 15 so the renovations can proceed hTC without damaging art or patrons.

The Walters' 1908 building at 600 N. Charles St. and its separate Museum of Asian Art inside the Hackerman House at 1 Mount Vernon Place will remain open during the renovation period.

In addition, "highlights" from the 1974 building will be displayed temporarily in the 1908 building, and the Walters will continue to mount a series of special exhibitions there as well. The renovated 1974 building is due to reopen in the spring of 2001.

Museum director Gary Vikan outlined the schedule yesterdaywhile presenting architectural plans to Baltimore's Design Advisory Panel. "We are well on our way," he said after the meeting. "This is the biggest project we will have done since 1974."

The 1974 building houses collections that are among the Walters' greatest strengths, including its Egyptian, Greek and Roman works, and its medieval and Islamic art. It also contains an auditorium, gift shop, space for temporary exhibits and staff offices.

The long-awaited renovation project has been planned primarily to correct deficiencies with the mechanical systems, including ceiling-mounted coils that sometimes drip water and oil onto galleries below and a climate-control system that does not maintain steady temperature and humidity levels.

Directors are taking advantage of the closing to reinstall the collection and make changes that enhance the visitor's experience.

Kallman McKinnell & Wood architects of Boston head the design team, which also includes Quenroe Associates, an exhibition design firm based in Boulder, Colo. Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. is the construction manager.

The single most visible change to the museum's exterior will be the construction of a four-story glass entry atrium on Centre Street, to replace the current recessed entry there.

Interior changes will include a family art learning center with studio and workshop spaces; expanded exhibition space for the museum's collections of ancient and medieval art; an enlarged museum store; expanded conservation laboratories; and new finishes for the auditorium.

Vikan declined to disclose how much of the $16 million the museum has raised. But he said museum representatives have been pleased by the support they're received so far from public and private sources and that a capital campaign will be launched later in the year.

Pub Date: 1/16/98

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