How an 80-year-old banyan tree is focal point of Norton’s new design


The starting point for the Norton Museum of Art expansion is its roots, its architect Norman Foster said Friday.

The $60 million project, set for completion in 2018, will return the 1941 structure’s east-west orientation, placing its entry on South Dixie Highway and replacing the southern entry and parking lot with a 9,000-square-foot sculpture garden. The inner courtyard at the heart of the original museum also will come back into focus, with stronger visual ties to the galleries that surround it, Foster said.

And then there are the real roots, those of the 80-year-old banyan tree that stretch for dozens of yards in all directions beneath the building’s Dixie frontage, as detected by ground radar scans. They’ll stay, as the tree becomes a main feature of the new design, with a sizable cutout in the building’s front overhang making room for for the banyan’s canopy.

Three arborists were consulted to make sure the structure wouldn’t compromise the tree’s survival and the design was adjusted accordingly. The cutout was enlarged, and the reflective pool was shortened to give the roots more space.

Foster+Partners, based in London, designed Hearst Tower in New York and the 30 St Mary Axe building in London, known familiarly as “The Gherkin,” for its pickle shape. The Yale-trained, Pritzker Architecture Prize winner was granted a knighthood in 1990 and honored with a life peerage 1999, taking the title Lord Foster of Thames Bank. He’s the same age as the banyan tree.

Foster told a gathering of of Norton patrons and other donors, collectors that even as construction prep work for the project began in September, much of the design work on the interiors continues.

The design, including such features as a dining pavilion that overlooks the sculpture garden, is meant “to make the whole thing more permeable and welcoming,” than many traditional museums, Foster said.

The thin but expansive overhang, with a brushed aluminum underside to capture light from the reflective pool, serves to unite different parts of the museum, from its galleries and great hall to a 210-seat auditorium. The architects worked hard to make the complex structure look simple, he said.

Gilbert Maurer, a Norton trustee, predicted that the quality of the project will enhance a large stretch of the Dixie corridor and change West Palm Beach in subtler ways. As Winston Churchill said, Maurer noted, “We shape our buildings. Thereafter they shape us.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

South Carolina authorities searching for 3 escaped inmates
South Carolina authorities searching for 3 escaped inmates

South Carolina authorities are searching for three inmates -- two of whom are charged with murder -- who escaped from a jail, WRDW reported. The Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post that the trio escaped from the county detention center Saturday night and that all are considered dangerous. The three inmates were identified...
Police: 13-year-old in custody after 2 children shot in Central Florida city
Police: 13-year-old in custody after 2 children shot in Central Florida city

Two children were hospitalized after being shot in a Central Florida city Saturday evening and a 13-year-old boy was in custody, police said.  The incident occurred shortly before 6 p.m. in the Brevard County city of Palm Bay. Two juvenile victims, who police did not identify, were taken to nearby hospitals in serious but stable condition, police...
North Carolina deputies find nearly $91 million of liquid meth on truck
North Carolina deputies find nearly $91 million of liquid meth on truck

Deputies in North Carolina on Saturday seized a tractor-trailer containing $90.8 million worth of liquid methamphetamine in the driver's side fuel tank, WTVD reported. Raul Topete Arreola, 49, and Aquileo Perez Pineda, 48, were charged with three counts of trafficking methamphetamine, according to the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies...
WATCH: Veterans arrive home to cheers and hugs after trip to Washington D.C.
WATCH: Veterans arrive home to cheers and hugs after trip to Washington D.C.

The noise filled the entrance to Concourse A and B long before the men in red hats arrived. About 300 people had already come, some wearing cowboy boots, some holding USA signs, some sporting freshly pressed military uniforms and pushing walkers with American flags pinned to the sides. “We came to honor our boys,” said Frank Bonfiglio,...
25 people in New York City hospitalized for synthetic marijuana overdoses
25 people in New York City hospitalized for synthetic marijuana overdoses

Twenty-five people in New York City were hospitalized Saturday night after apparently having a negative reaction to synthetic marijuana, WABC reported. Lt. Paul Ng of the New York Police Department said that the drug, known as K2, was taken by people in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. They were taken to the hospital after reports of...
More Stories