Harvard Art Museums
The ground-up design of Grand Rapids Art Museum was WHY’s first museum project, launching the next 15 years of specialist design for arts institutions. As the first museum in the nation to receive the certification of LEED Gold (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design), the project also established our commitment to integrating green design into the museum structure, setting new standards for environmental sustainability in the cultural sector.
Back the early 2000s, green design for museums seemed an insurmountable problem. The strict requirements for regulating air quality, humidity, and lighting meant that museums were obliged to consume large amounts of energy for the sake of conserving their collections. The museum of the past was essentially a “refrigerator for art.”
GRAM marked a turning point. Through strategies such as sensitive planning to maximize sun orientation, a highly efficient climactic control system, a light-porous building envelope, optimized air and filtration systems, and rainwater recycling, we were able to dramatically reduce the building’s carbon footprint. We use the term “invisible green” to assert our belief that sustainability should be inherent to design – an accepted necessity rather than an optional add-on.
From the beginning, the museum was designed to play a major role in the revitalization of the city. The project marked the final stage of the renewal of a 3.5 acre block in Downtown Grand Rapids, and we set out to create a new “front porch” for the city: a welcoming, convivial destination characterized by dynamic connections between indoor and outdoor spaces. The museum is sited in relation to the land sculpture “Ecliptic” by Maya Lin, located in Rosa Parks Circle, and the large cantilever entry canopy extends into the park. The massing of the structure is perforated by channels of water which reach into the building, creating an overall sense of flow inside and out.
"The new Grand Rapids Art Museum is a tribute to balance, thoughtfulness, and understanding of the important role it is to fulfill now and in the years to come."
“The museum's radiant, light-washed interiors instill the kind of relaxed receptivity that paves the way to peak artistic experiences. As such, the museum heralds the heady possibility that being green and beautiful are not mutually exclusive.”