Yin and Yang with Kundig in Tacoma

General / People / Places / September 25, 2013

A resurgent downtown Tacoma, Wash. is the newest site for some architectural wizardry by Tom Kundig of Seattle-based Olson Kundig Architects.

The Tacoma Art Museum broke ground for a new wing earlier this month, where Antoine Predoc’s structure was designed and built some 12 years ago.

Kundig’s diminutive new wing will house the Haub family’s collection of American Western Art, including works by Charles M. Russell, Frederic Remington and Thomas Moran. Interestingly enough, one of Moran’s paintings currently hangs in the Oval Office.

The new Western collection will stand in strong contrast to the museum’s collection of modern art – and that’s one of the challenges presented by the new wing.

“Basically, we’re trying to bring those two distinct collections together,” Kundig says. “It’s kind of like black and white, so where the two touch is where the magic happens.”

At two-and-a-half stories, Predoc’s building is much larger – and clad in a stainless steel that’s since been discontinued. Kundig calls for the 16,000 square-foot Haub wing to be sheathed in a dark bronze – though its entrance will provide a surprising level of transparency too.

“It’s a yin and yang, using both parts to reinforce each other,” he says. “And where they come together, it’s transparent to the street – there’s a major intersection at a corner where people are waiting for lights and using the crosswalks.”

The new wing is a wink and a nod to downtown Tacoma’s history as a terminus for Abraham Lincoln’s Prairie Line, the railroad that extended east to west. Where the timber industry and shipbuilding once dominated the town, culture and education now thrive. But Kundig’s looking back to the railcars that made this town possible.

“What I’ve done is make a vague reference to the shuttering of the museum, so that opening and closing it looks like a box car,” he says. “It’s a building that morphs and changes and can be curated by the museum like an aperture – it makes references to rolling trains and rolling stock.”

It also respects the Predoc precedent while asserting itself. “It’s not outrageous and in your face,” he says. “It’s about the art and where it is.”

Still, it’s a beneficiary of Kundig’s trademark sleight of hand.

For more on the Tacoma Art Museum, go to www.TacomaArtMuseum.org

For more on Olson Kundig Architects, go to http://www.olsonkundigarchitects.com/

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Mike Welton

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