Norton Museum of Art unveils grand plan



The plan, which the museum’s building committee chairman Bruce Beal said will transform the Norton “into the most exciting building south of Atlanta,” was presented Wednesday on the opening day of Art Basel at a lunch for major supporters at the Delano South Beach hotel.

The last expansion, in 2003, added the 45,000-square-foot, three-story Nessel Wing. The new plan, developed by London-based Foster + Partners, encompasses the entire 6.3-acre West Palm Beach campus, which includes the existing 122,500-square-foot building and grounds. Execution would come in phases.

Phase One, which would reconfigure or add 18,000 square feet, is targeted for completion by the Norton’s 75th anniversary in 2016. It includes:

* Reorienting the main entrance to face South Dixie Highway on the museum’s west side.

* Adding three pavilions on the west side housing a lobby, a multi-purpose grand hall, an education center featuring an updated 200-seat auditorium, event space and a store.

* A glass-walled sculpture colonnade running along the south side of the building.

* Converting the parking lot on the south side into a sculpture lawn with shaded walkways and native vegetation.

* Reconfiguring space in the Nessel Wing into a restaurant with garden seating and the existing lobby and theater into galleries

* Converting six bungalows on Cranesnest Way into an entertainment complex, an artist-in-residence facility and a director’s residence. Work on the two easternmost bungalows, which make up the entertainment complex, is expected to be completed in eight months.

Future phases would add two gallery wings on the east side of the campus, bringing the total exhibition space to about 52,000 square feet, nearly double the existing 28,000 square feet.

The Norton hasn’t established a budget for executing the plan, which was approved by the board in October, Deputy Director James Brayton Hall said. Trustees Bruce Beal, Jean Sharf and Gilbert Maurer have donated undisclosed sums to the campaign, said Hope Alswang, the Norton’s director and chief executive officer.

“South Florida is woefully culturally under-resourced,” said Alswang. “Florida has the fastest growing population in the United States. We must be deeply ambitious. The reason we hired Foster + Partners is to make those ambitions real.”

The new entrance will be introduced by a reflecting pool and a metal canopy that unites the new pavilions. The plan restores elements of the original 1941 building as conceived by architect Marion Sims Wyeth.

“This building is saying, ‘Please help me rediscover my roots,’,” architect Lord Norman Foster said. The design reclaims the east-west vista through the museum to the Intracoastal Waterway, improves traffic flow and re-establishes the entrance at the most natural point for visitors to access the museum.



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