Thumbs Up for Upgraded Addison Gallery

Published on November 8th, 2010

Centerbrook Architects’ addition of a learning center and extensive renovations to the Addison Gallery of American Art on the campus of Philips Academy Andover are garnering positive reviews. The 13,770-square-foot, three-story expansion to the 79-year-old building added a progressive presence to the historic Addison. It takes the form of an elegant glass box sheathed in stainless steel mesh sitting atop a masonry base defined by a simple brick wall. The museum opened in September.

The architectural challenge was to create a new facility that would evince its own personality without compromising the two existing buildings that it sits between, including the Classic Revival Addison designed by Charles Platt.

William Morgan wrote in Design New England magazine: “Instead of trying to be overtly contextual, [Centerbrook partner Chad] Floyd played it absolutely straight, employing obviously contemporary materials and detailing…The public face of the addition – the wall of the learning center – is glass, but the expanse is neither jarring nor discordant, for it is placed behind a stainless steel mesh sun screen. Practical and simple, the chain-mail-like scrim adds a lively dimension to the façade. In changes of light and weather, it subtly sparkles and dematerializes like a piece of op art.”

Robert Campbell of the Boston Globe opined, “The architects, of the firm Centerbrook from Connecticut, haven’t added any new galleries, but they’ve done a spectacular job of renovating the old ones.” Campbell continued: “The museum needed updates of just about everything: lighting, wiring, climate control, access for the disabled, art storage, and so on. Upgrades of this kind can wreck the beauty of a traditional museum space. But Centerbrook inserts them almost invisibly, preserving and even enhancing the character of the old galleries. The new lighting is especially superb.”

The Boston Phoenix wrote that the new Sideny R. Knafel Wing which houses the learning center as well as offices and storage “fits so smoothly into its red-brick surroundings, you'd think it's been there all the time.”

The most important review came from the client. Brian T. Allen, the Mary Stripp & R. Crosby Kemper Director of the Addison was quoted in an online article: “After eighteen months of anticipation, we are overjoyed to begin the next phase of the Addison’s storied history … The Addison is a jewel among museums – and after much devoted, often difficult, work from our team and the experts at Centerbrook Architects – the jewel has been reset.”

Centerbrook Partner Chad Floyd, FAIA, was the lead architect, and Ed Keagle, AIA, was the project manager.