Speed Art Museum

A New Life for Kentucky’s Oldest Cultural Institution

wHY’s design for the new Speed Art Museum encompasses a thorough re-design of the original 1927 neoclassical building plus two additions and a sculpture park. It is Kentucky’s oldest and largest art museum, and the region’s leading cultural repository.

The process commenced by developing a comprehensive strategy for the museum’s physical, curatorial and programmatic growth and expansion. wHY utilized a unique “Acupuncture Architecture” approach, which pioneers careful and precise interventions at multiple points in order to heal the whole. The original museum’s central grand stair is modernized while the building is opened up along its longitudinal axis; natural light and views penetrate to spaces below ground to create connectivity and showcase all that there is to see and do. The expansions bring a contemporary and transparent architectural presence to the surrounding area, including the University of Louisville – Belknap campus, a residential neighborhood and a network of Frederick Law Olmsted–designed parks and parkways. Throughout the museum, wHY-designed benches, desks and stairs add to the unified design and experience.

On the north side of the original building, a 60,000 square foot addition is formed by three stacked and shifted volumes sheathed in fritted glass and folded aluminum panels, which emulate the classical moldings of the original building and change in response to the natural light. Programmatically, the much-needed space doubles the Speed Art Museum’s overall size and nearly triples the amount of exhibition space, including the museum’s first-ever modern and contemporary galleries. Spaces for art have a focused and concentrated ambiance while the connective tissue is seamless and marked by richly textured concrete.

To the south, a smaller 12,000 square foot addition provides additional galleries, an outdoor sculpture garden and a state-of-the-art 142-seat cinema for a new film program. ­Additional spaces within the new Speed are a family education welcome center, a combined indoor/outdoor café, a museum shop and a multifunctional pavilion for performances, lecture and entertainment.

A new Elizabeth P. and Frederick K. Cressman Art Park and public piazza exhibits several works, including site-specific art commissions, connecting the surrounding campus and neighborhood to art around the clock.

For the Speed, wHY’s acupuncture architecture approach has proven to meet their physical space needs while strategically activating the museum in ways unimaginable both inside and out.

  • Workshops
    Buildings, Grounds, Ideas, Objects
  • Client
    Speed Art Museum
  • Location
    Louisville, KY, USA
  • Area
    200,000 sq ft / 18,580 sq. m.
  • Role
    Master Planner, Design Architect
  • Scope
    Site and building programming, stakeholder engagement, fundraising, landscape design, complete architectural and interior design including historic renovation and expansion
  • Program
    Lobby, galleries, a family education welcome center, a combined indoor/ outdoor café, a museum shop, 142-seat cinema and a multi-functional auditorium for performances, lectures and entertainment
  • Budget
    $50 million / € 45 million
  • Status
    Commenced 2009, Completed 2016
  • Image Credits
    Rafael Gamo

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