Williamstown, Massachusetts


Annabelle Selldorf was an obvious choice to renovate the venerated museum of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, home to a stellar collection of European and American paintings. Long esteemed by the art world for her minimalist approach, the German-born, New York–based architect designed the Neue Galerie New York (2001), the Stanze del Vetro glass museum in Venice (2012), and several high-profile Manhattan galleries, including David Zwirner’s most recent space in Chelsea (RECORD, June 2013, page 168). Michael Conforti, the Clark’s director, hired Selldorf in 2007, six years after he commissioned Tadao Ando to design a new visitor center and conservation laboratory. But the two architects, both renowned for museum work, did not collaborate. “Ando and I met after I was hired,” Selldorf recalls. “He said, ’I’ll do my thing, and you do yours.’ ” That was the only discussion.

Her program was to do a gut renovation of the museum, a white-marble temple designed by Daniel Deverell Perry, which had barely been touched since it opened in 1955 (in 1973 it was linked by a passageway to the Manton Research Center next door, which Selldorf is also renovating for a 2015 completion).

Selldorf had to rethink the entire visitor experience, since it had already been decided to switch the museum entrance from the columned, formal front to the back. (In 2001, Conforti had adopted a Cooper Robertson master plan that suggested expanding the Clark to the west, behind the museum.) The first move was to change the original circulation pattern, basically a one-way procession around the periphery that ended in the skylit Renoir Room at the center. “I wanted a route of circulation that was not coercive,” Selldorf says. By eliminating the corridors, she could ensure that “every space is used for looking at art.”

Selldorf also transformed the former white-marble lobby of the original entrance into a well-proportioned winter garden, complete with a new skylight, to display sculpture. By doing so, and by converting former offices into new galleries, the architect gained 2,200 more square feet of exhibition space for a total of 43,770 square feet. “The greatest challenge was making the spaces coherent,” she says.

Selldorf is proudest of replacing the putty-colored walls with a muted but varied palette of tones: pearl gray, pale lilac, mauve, and aubergine. “I started looking at where paintings were to be placed and developed a family of colors that is very specific to the art,” she says. She adds, with a laugh: “The curators assumed, because I am a modern architect, I’d want white. But I was thinking about colors from the beginning. The day I presented my color scheme was the most anxious one for me. Michael warned me he would battle with me over the colors.” They did fight, but now Conforti concedes, “I’m glad she won.”

The task at hand involved more than coming up with a sophisticated color scheme. Selldorf had to take the walls down to the studs to replace the electrical, plumbing, lighting, and HVAC systems. And she cleaned and updated the laylight for the enormous ceiling in the Renoir room, enhancing the natural light that evenly saturates it.

Most striking, perhaps, are the new galleries for the decorative arts, for which Selldorf designed casework, vitrines, lighting, and furniture. Now the Meissen porcelain and antique Augsburg and English silver glow in their subdued eggplant-colored setting.

Selldorf is modest about her contribution. “The permanent art collection is the jewel in the crown,” she says. “My goal was to make the museum look better without anyone noticing anything had been done.”

The architect also insisted on retaining the museum’s “domestic” character—the small galleries with windows looking out at the expansive panorama of nature, to “create a relationship between the art and the landscape,” she says.

The one thing Selldorf was not permitted to do was design the new entrance to the west, which faces Ando’s visitor center: Ando had already done it before she got there. It’s a 2,000- square-foot glassed-in porch that is both lobby and sculpture court, a perfunctory modernist appendage to the white temple. Asked about it, Selldorf says, “Don’t get me started . . .”

Nevertheless, now, as soon as you enter the first gallery, you are immersed in the museum’s Old World atmosphere. What’s great is that, while the interior may feel historic, it’s not. It’s all Selldorf.


The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
225 South Street
Williamstown, MA 01267

Design Architect:
Selldorf Architects
860 Broadway, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10003
T: 212.219.9571
F: 212.941.6362

Architect of Record/Executive Architect:
Rockefeller Center
1230 Avenue of the Americas
Suite 1500
New York NY 10020
T: 212.492.1400
F: 212.492.1472

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Design architect:
Selldorf Architects
Principal: Annabelle Selldorf FAIA
Partner: Sara Lopergolo AIA
Partner: Lisa Green
Project Manager: Julie Hausch-Fen, Associate Partner
Project Manager: Matthew Conrad
Project Architect: Joe Smith, AIA
Project Architect: Jeanette Trudeau

Project Team Base Building:
Mariam Mojdehi
Lauren Caughley
Matthew Schnepf
Kevin McAlarnen

Project Team Furniture:
Len Morgan, Associate Partner
Penelope August, Project Manager
Rachael Elliot

Architect of record/Executive architect:
Principal-In-Charge: Madeline Burke-Vigeland, AIA
Project Manager: Ambrose Aliaga-Kelly, Principal, AIA
Project Architect: Jinho Kim, AIA
Design Team: Kate Sherwood, AIA, Ben Koenig, AIA, John Chow

Landscape architect:
Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architecture
Partner: Gary Hilderbrand, FASLA
Principal-in-Charge: Eric Kramer, ASLA
Project Manager: Beka Sturges, ASLA

Project leadership (Clark):
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (Michael Conforti, Tony King, Paul Puciata, Phillip Johns)

Owner's representative:
Arcadis (Leif Selkregg, Peter Van Dyk, Bridget Bush, Lucilla Haskovec, Jim Conrath)

Project manager:
Zubatkin Owner Representation (Marty Zubatkin, Andy Bast, Jason Zubatkin)

Structural engineer:
Buro Happold Consulting Engineers (Craig Schwitter, Stratton Newbert)

MEPFP engineer:
Altieri Sebor Wieber (Andrew Sebor, Stephen Carpino, Kari Nystrom, Stephen Wilkie)

Civil engineer:
Vincent P. Guntlow & Associates (Vincent P. Guntlow)

Lighting consultant:
Renfro Design Group (Richard Renfro, Sarah Randall)

Code consultant:
Technical Solutions Associates (John Titus)

Waterproofing consultant:
James R. Gainfort Consulting Architects (James Gainfort)

Security consultant:
Layne Consultants International (Mark Peterson)

Program consultant:
LORD Cultural Resources Planning & Management (Margaret May, Catharine Tanner, Heather Maximea)

Client attorney:
Donald R. Dubendorf, Esq.

Elevator consultant:
Jenkins & Huntington (Kevin Huntington)

Graphic design:
2x4( Georgiana Stout, Jessica Dobkin, Evan Allen, Jeffery Ludlow)

Cost estimator:
Stuart-Lynn Company (Breck Perkins)

General Contractor:
Consigli (John Benzinger, Robert Malone, Onil Charest, Mike Boucher)
72 Summer Street
Milford, MA 01757

Sub Contractors:
Hvac: Adams
Elevator: Eagle Elevator
Sprinkler: Red Hawk
Plumbing: Cardillo
Carpentry/drywall: H. Carr
Floors: Towne & Country
Steel: DeAngelis
Painting: Michael Renzi


43,770 square feet

Total project cost:

$145 million

Completion date:

July 2014



Structural system
The existing museum primary structure is concrete slabs and beams with concrete bearing walls and long span steel trussed over the central gallery. For the renovation, floor infills were done with light framed steel and concrete slab on metal deck.

Exterior cladding
Marble (Vermont Danby)
Manufacturer: Vermont Stone Art

TYPE1 (At East and West entrance bronze and glass doors)
Insulating glass: 3/4' PPG Starphire
Manufacturer: Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope

Type2 (At Interior wood and glass doors: 3 doors at east gallery)
Heat treated Float Glass: 1/2' PPG Starphire
Manufacturer: Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope

Insulated-panel or plastic glazing:
TYPE1 (At Laylights)
Safety Film: Safetyshield 800
Manufacturer: Madico

TYPE2 (At West Entrance door between glass box and west gallery)
Glass UV Film: Sun-X MT20 (20% Neutral Film)
Manufacturer: Sun-X

Translucent composite skylight (roof):

Bronze-Glass Door
Manufacturer: Stanley Wiesen Inc, Dawson Door

Metal doors:
Hollow Metal Door
Manufacturer: O'Connor Door

Wood doors:
Wood Door
Manufacturer: Wright Architectural Millwork
Wood-Glass Door
Manufacturer: Wright Architectural Millwork

Bronze Door
Manufacturer: Schlage
Manufacturer: Sargent

Manufacturer: Rixson

Exit devices:
Manufacturer: Sargent

Bronze Doors
Manufacturer: KL Megla
Wood Doors
Manufacturer: Rockwood
Hollow Metal Doors
Manufacturer: Sargent

Security devices:
Card Reader
Manufacturer: Assa Abloy
Motion Detector
Manufacturer: Bosch
Exit Detector
Manufacturer: Risco
Door Control Unit
Manufacturer: Dortronics
Security Camera
Manufacturer: Axis

Interior finishes
Acoustical ceilings:
Armstrong Dune Tegular 1775
Manufacturer: Armstrong World Industries

Suspension grid:
Siluette 9/16' Bolt Slot Systems 1/8' Opening
Manufacturer: Armstrong World Industries

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork:
Custom GFRG Molding/Trim
Manufacturer: Wright Architectural Millwork

Paints and stains:
Benjamin Moore 'Atrium White', Farrow & Ball and Sherwin Williams

Elevator Finishes:
Floor ' Aronson's Floor Covering, #5620.5620 Brass Studded Rubber, 12 x 12 tiles

Wall Panels ' Rigidized Metal Corps, Pattern: 6-HC, Material: Muntz, Finish: Satin

Glausbau Hahn
Interiors: SmallCorp.
Fabric: Creation Baumann.

Solid surfacing:
Zodiaq Snow White
Manufacturer: Zodiaq

Special surfacing:
Custom Bronze Portal
Manufacturer: DeAngelis

Floor and wall tile:
Wood Floor (Gallery)
Manufacturer: Wright Architectural Millwork

Resilient flooring:
Vinyl Composition Tile (Storage)
Manufacturer: Mannington Commercial

Window Shade:
Lutron Basketweave 4000 Eco
Manufacturer: Lutron

Gallery Seating:
Gallery Bourne (custom design by Selldorf Architects)
Materials: Upholstery, bronze powder-coated metal frame
Upholstered in Maharam, Coach Cloth, Grap
Manufacturer: The Bright Group (NY)
Web: http://www.thebrightgroup.com/

Gallery Benches (custom design by Selldorf Architects)
Materials: Upholstery, bronze powder-coated metal frame
Upholstered in Maharam, Scuba, Mahogany
Manufacturer: The Bright Group (NY)
Web: http://www.thebrightgroup.com/

Conservancy Chair: Karl Friedrich Schinkel Garden Chair
Licensed Manufacturer: Tecta (Germany)
Distribution: M2L (USA) Website: www.tecta.de/en
Direct Link: http://www.tecta.de/en/produkt/d60/#21/ts/furniture/chairs/

Conservancy Stools (custom design by Selldorf Architects)
Manufacturer: Boston Valley Terracotta, NY
Website: http://www.bostonvalley.com/

Collection Storage special equipment:
Moveable paint screen
High density compact shelve
Manufacturer: Systematics, Inc

Web: www.capital-garden.com

Track lighting:
Manufacturer: Edison Price Lighting

Manufacturer: Kurt Verson

Pendant mounted lighting:
Manufacturer: Litecontrol

Surface Mounted lighting:
Linear uplight
Manufacturer: Elliptipar
Wall mount
Manufacturer: Color Kinetics
Manufacturer: Bartco

Winona Step03
Manufacturer: Winona

Manufacturer: Eagle Elevator

Kohler Kathryn K-2330

Toto CT708EV

Toto UT447V

Add any additional building components or special equipment that made a significant contribution to this project:
Interior and Exterior Signage:

CREO Industrial Arts
Woodinville, WA

Visual Graphics Systems, Inc
Carlstadt, New Jersey