an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me

Darts for Dartmouth: Hood Museum Has Less Moore in Tod Williams Billie Tsien’s Makeover (with video)

Win some, lose some: While adding five new galleries and increasing floor space by 50%, the much delayed $50-million expansion and renovation of Dartmouth College’s Hood Museum will be less ambitious than originally planned in 2012. And for the next three years, students will be largely deprived of access to an important educational resource that may have attracted them to Hanover, NH, in the first place—the museum’s eclectic 65,000-object collection.

The Hood closed on Mar. 13. Construction is to start late this summer, with reopening planned for 2019.

Here’s what the bright new façade (including what Dartmouth describes as a “dramatic new entrance, visible from the Green”) will look like:

Rendering of north entrance of expanded Hood Museum Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects

Rendering of expanded Hood Museum (center)
Image courtesy of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects

And here’s the Hood’s current somber (but grassier) entrance, which gave it “a low profile—to the point that visitors to the museum sometimes struggle to find it,” according to the museum’s announcement of its plans:

Entrance of the Hood Museum Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Entrance to the Hood Museum
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Some architecture experts have objected strongly to the new plans, designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien (who were also subjects of controversy for their work at the American Folk Art Museum and Barnes Foundation). As reported by the NY TimesRobin Pogrebin, Williams and Tsien are now being charged with “fundamentally wreck[ing]” architect Charles Moore‘s “entire conception” for the Hood’s 1985 building, in the words of Kevin Keim, director of the Charles Moore Foundation.

In an email to me, the museum’s director, John Stomberg, countered the critics, arguing that “the architects have found a way to preserve the vast majority of Charles Moore’s original architecture.”

Stomberg, one of whose former professional homes was another Moore building—the Williams College Museum of Art (where he was chief curator and deputy director)—added this:

The plan involves removing the entrance gate and converting the courtyard into a covered concourse, but the rest of the original structure stays in place. Williams and Tsien have placed the new galleries and offices above the concourse. The brilliance of the plan is that the Hood Museum ends up with two great and distinct buildings on the outside that have a seamless transition on the inside.

In the near term, the expansion plan has one undeniable downside—what Stomberg described as only “limited access to the collections” during the museum’s three-year closure, with most of the work stored offsite:

The Hood will continue to run an internship program with projects based on our preparations for the reopening of the galleries in January 2019, planning for future traveling exhibitions, and working on shows planned for “Hood Downtown,” a local exhibition space. During the closure, the Hood will lease a nearby venue to hold changing exhibitions of global contemporary art. The exact location has yet to be determined, but the program—“Hood Downtown”—will be open this fall.

The capital project no longer includes “renovation of the adjacent Wilson Hall,” as described in the initial 2012 press release. That “was abandoned because it was simply way too expensive,” Stomberg told me.

Wilson is the red building on the left in this photo of what the Hood’s entrance looked like in its early days:

Hood Museum, Charles W. Moore and Centerbrook Architects Photo by Timothy Hursley

Hood Museum, Charles W. Moore and Centerbrook Architects
Photo by Timothy Hursley

The museum’s planned new galleries (according to this month’s announcement) will enable it “to display portions of its collections that are not shown on a regular basis, including Aboriginal Australian art, Native American art, and signature modern works by artists such as Ed Ruscha, Mark Rothko and Lorna Simpson.

Here’s the Rothko, a gift from an illustrious collection—that of a former director of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art:

Rothko, "Lilac and Orange over Ivory," 1953, Gift of William S. Rubin Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Rothko, “Lilac and Orange over Ivory,” 1953, Gift of William S. Rubin
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Interestingly, a recent comment supporting the expansion plan by the Hood’s previous director, Michael Taylor, is included in Pogrebin’s Times article. Taylor left Dartmouth abruptly last year, without public explanation. (He is now chief curator and deputy director at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.)

It was Taylor who first gave me a preview of the Hood’s capital ambitions (including the aborted plans for Wilson Hall), when I visited Dartmouth’s campus for my May 2012 Wall Street Journal article on the Hood’s Pollock/Orozco exhibition. The plan then was an imminent start to construction, with reopening in 2015. But fundraising was sluggish: Stomberg said that “just this spring we received approval to move forward with construction, as we now have achieved nearly 80% of our funding.”

Now travel with me back in time, to my detailed 2012 conversation with Taylor, which gives you a good look at what will soon become a major construction site, as well as a peek at the other buildings that constitute Dartmouth’s enviable “Arts District”:

an ArtsJournal blog