Williamstown, Massachusetts


In the late 1990s, Michael Conforti, the director of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, decided the Clark sorely needed a renovation and expansion of its existing buildings. In order to attract—and accommodate—visitors to its extraordinary collection of Impressionists and Old Masters in its arcadian setting in the Berkshires, he asked Cooper, Robertson & Partners to come up with a master plan. In 2001, the firm proposed siting a new structure housing a conservation lab and visitor center behind the two major buildings on the Clark campus: the 44,000-square-foot museum, a white marble temple designed in the classical style by Daniel D. Perry in 1955, and the art library next door, the Manton Research Center, a 100,000-square-foot Brutalist behemoth designed by Pietro Belluschi with The Architects Collaborative in 1973.

Conforti adopted the plan, but insisted anything new be unobtrusive. “The character of the Clark is one of intimacy, humanity, and small-town scale,” he explains. He organized an architectural selection process and assembled a jury that, in 2001, unanimously chose Tadao Ando, the 1995 Pritzker Prize–winner, to take on the expansion.

Conforti was thrilled about Ando, but found his first design placed too much bulk on the site. After long deliberations, the team decided to move the conservation lab to a more remote spot on a hill a 10-minute hike away. “We had always imagined a building there, but didn’t know it would be that one,” Conforti says. Ando completed the 32,000-square-foot conservation lab, known as the Lunder Center on Stone Hill, in 2008.

Finally, last month, the Clark opened Ando’s visitor center, a long, low, modern shed seemingly only one story high. There is a reason it looks small: 65 percent of the 42,600-square-foot two-level structure is below grade.

In plan, it is a rectilinear volume that retains the orthogonal grid of the nearby classical-style museum. But Ando has integrated the new building into the landscape by organizing it around an outdoor reflecting pool and introducing long diagonal walls that dramatically frame the views. The extended planes of the walls pull the eye in prescribed directions.

“It’s all about taking the view away and giving it back to you,” says Gary Hilderbrand of Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architecture, Ando’s choice of consultant. “I wanted to create a synergy among the buildings with this water feature,” says Ando, known for reflecting pools, such as the dramatic one at his Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (2002).

The framing walls are a red granite the color of dried blood. The stone is from the same Minnesota quarry that sheathes the Manton. Conforti so loves it, he took a slab to Japan to show Ando early on, and the architect eventually adopted it. “I used stone for the first time, but in a very confident way,” Ando now says. Elsewhere at the center, he employs his signature “Ando concrete,” poured into forms of birch plywood covered with phenolic surface film that make it silky smooth.

One of Ando’s red diagonal walls bounds an enclosed walkway between the center and a new entrance pavilion that Ando designed for the west front of the 1955 museum. (See page 82 for more details of the museum renovation.) Another red wall, perpendicular to the first, extends 340 feet from the center to the parking lot. In plan, these two walls form a “7”–a motif Ando previously employed at the Lunder Center up the hill.

Visitors might initially find the emphasis on solid stone oppressive: the 12-foot-tall walls are the first thing you see after you park; they channel you to the center while blocking views of nearly everything else.

Then comes the surprise, when you enter the lobby, as your gaze is pulled through the building to the glass wall and beyond to the three-tiered reflecting pool and, in the distance, the Stone Hill meadow and the Berkshires. It is breathtaking. In fact, you are looking through two walls: a freestanding, 115-foot-wide concrete one on the outdoor terrace has huge openings incised to “double frame” the view. It makes you think of Le Corbusier.

Ando’s visitor center includes, on the ground level, a reception area, shop, and multipurpose space for temporary exhibitions, conferences, or events. To inaugurate this gallery, Conforti asked Selldorf to design the installation of an exhibition of ancient bronzes from the Shanghai Museum (through September 21). Selldorf executed elegantly proportioned vitrines for the ancient vessels and mounted a temporary screen of diaphanous gauze to filter the sunlight and give the open, airy space a sense of enclosure.

The main lobby adjoining this gallery is dramatically pierced by a switchback stair to the lower level café. It seems to float in the double-height atrium. If the layout appears labyrinthine, it is. As Conforti says, “ You cannot know the building until you go through it and it reveals itself.”

Ando’s new building shares a quiet, minimalist sensibility with its older sister up the hill, the Lunder Center, which has studio spaces, classrooms, and more galleries in addition to the labs, plus an expansive terrace with views of Vermont’s Green Mountains to the north. The two structures, which add 97,700 square feet of space to the Clark campus (including the physical plant), sit snugly in the landscape and provide serene, luminous spaces for art. Both offer a sense of progression and a seamless integration of indoor and outdoor spaces, including framed views. Says Ando, “It is my intention for people to easily experience the spirit and beauty of nature through architecture.” From that perspective, mission accomplished.

Wendy Moonan’s writing on architecture and design has appeared in The New York Times and the Smithsonian.


client :
The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

design architect :
Tadao Ando Architect & Associates (Tadao Ando, Masataka Yano)

executive architect :

USA design team:

project leadership (Clark):
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (Peter Willmott, Michael Conforti, Tony King, Paul Puciata, Phillip Johns, Lisa Green)

owner's reprentative:
Arcadis (Leif Selkregg, Pete Van Dyk, Thomas Meyer, Barry Quinn, Cary Tisch, Earl Manning, Jim Conrath, Nicholas Greene, Lucilla Haskovec)

project manager:
Zubatkin Owner Representation (Marty Zubatkin, Andy Bast, Jason Zubatkin, Patricia Brett)

architect of record/
executive architect:

Madeline Burke-Vigeland, AIA, Principal-In-Charge
David Adler, RA, Project Architect
Kate Sherwood, AIA, Design Team
Ben Koenig, AIA, Design Team
Nicolas Lawson, Design Team
Mario Perez, Design Team
Neil Troiano, AIA, Design Team
Yee Leung, AIA, Design Team
Robert Federico, Design Team
Gunnar Burke, Design Team

Ambrose Aliaga-Kelly, AIA, Principal, Project Manager
Jerry McElvain, AIA, Project Architect
Kristian Gregerson, Design Team
Tomasz Bona, AIA, Design Team
Ana Espejo, NCIDQ, Design Team
Welkhenia Daley, NCIDQ, Design Team
Inwon Yoon, Design Team
Shannon Orr, Design Team
Jay Ting, Design Team

landscape architect:
Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architecture: Gary Hilderbrand, FASLA (Partner) Eric Kramer, ASLA (Principal-in-Charge);
Beka Sturges, ASLA (Project Landscape Architect); Adrian Fehrmann, Heeyoung Lee, Misty March, Elizabeth Randall (Designers)

master plan:
Cooper, Robertson& Partners ( Don Clinton)

consulting architect:
wHY Design (Kulapat Yantrasast)

retail/cafe design:
wHY Design (Kulapat Yantrasast, Elizabeth Eshel, Byron Chang)

structural engineer:
Buro Happold Consulting Engineers (Craig Schwitter, J Cohen, Elizabeth Devendorf, Zac Braun, Tim Hill, Stratton Newbert)

consulting engineers:
Arup (Raj Patel, Adam Foxwell, Alexis Kurtz, Marta Nam,)

lighting consultant
Arup (Brian Stacy, Theresa Mahoney, Molly McKnight, Casey Curbow)

mep engineer:
Altieri Sebor Wieber (Andrew Sebor,Kari Nystrom, Stephen Carpino, Vladamir Goldin, Steven Wilkie )

civil engineer:
Vincent P. Guntlow & Associates (Vincent P. Guntlow, John Ryan)

elevator consultant:
Jenkins & Huntington (Kevin Huntington)

security consultant:
Layne Consultants International (Mark Peterson)

code consultant:
Technical Solutions Associates (John Titus)

food service consultant:
Arthur M. Manask & Associates (Arthur M. Manask)

food service consultant:
Clevenger Frable Lavallee (Foster Frable,Rick Rasulo )

AV consultant
Shen Milsom Wilke, LLC ( Jon Reeves, Alejandro Wong)

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

water feature consultant:
Dan Euser Waterarchitecture, Inc. (Dan Euser, Steven Euser )

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

commissioning agent:
Aramark ( Tim Sullivan)

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

concrete consultant:
Reginald D. Hough, FAIA ( Reginald D. Hough)

curtainwall consultant:
Arup (Scott Bondi, Tali Mejicovsky)

furniture distributor:
BBE Office Interiors (Daniel Proskin)

cost estimator:
Stuart-Lynn Company (Breck Perkins)

Irrigation Consulting

Pine and Swallow Environmental


42,600 square feet

Project cost:

$145 million

Completion date:

July 2014



contractors / suppliers :

construction management:
Turner Construction Company (Pat Di Filippo, Carl Stewart, Mike Ziobrowski, Art Heyde, Rob Stewart, Joseph Rossetti, Craig Fayette, Alec Marshall, Alfonso Rodriguez, Roy Venitelli)

concrete works :
Manafort Brothers (Mick Tarsi, John Soboleski, Bob Hanson, Billy Lake)

Cold Spring/ K. Castellucci and Sons (Michael Varone, John Pistachio, James Kennedy)

Champlain Masonry (Jeff Cantarella, Gordie LaDouceur)

steel structure:
Reo Welding (Mike Reo)

glazing :
Wausau/Suntech of Connecticut (Michael Berkun, John Wagner)

wood flooring:
J.J. Curran & Sons (Jerry Curran, Seamus Curran, Anthony DeThomasis )

tile and pavers
Wausau/Anthony Mion & Sons (Bob Briski)

ornamental metal
Suntech of Connecticut(Michael Berkun, John Wagner)

Frank Ryan and Sons (Bob Ryan, Steve Ryan, Jim Carr)

fire protection
SRI ( Don Weiss)

doors and hardware
Assa Abloy/ Kelley Brothers (Ken Whitney)

interior partitions:
Henderson Johnston (Todd Henderson, John Sano)

Mechoshade/LVC (Nick Van Calcar, Rodney Santiago)

Pyrok/ Artisan Plasters (John McCarthy, Andy Nardi)

millwork :
MillworkOne (Grant Caldwell, Paul Carter)

Carlisle/Siplast/ Titan Roofing (Fred Pazmino)

American Hydrotech/ Henry/Chapman Waterproofing (John Thompson, Richard Taft)

Thyssenkrupp/Bay State Elevators (Jay Horth, Peter Horth)

mechanical controls:
Automated Logic (Mark Worchel, Aaron Gazaille)

electrical systems :
DLC Electrical (Ralph Cioffi, Jack Robinson, Paul Ciancanelli)

mechanical system :
Adams Plumbing and Heating (Jeff Daignault, Mike Meczywor)

Adams Plumbing and Heating (Jeff Daignault, Mike Meczywor)

Alarms of Berkshire County (Ron Mason)

ValleyCrest Landscaping (Sean Brosnan, Patrick Ryan)

Wm J. Keller and Sons (John Keller Jr., Dennis Noel)

CREO Industrial Arts/ Visual Graphics Systems, Inc.
size :
site area : 6,100,000 sf
building area: XX,XXX sf
floor area : 65,790 sf (visitor center 42,650 sf, physical plant 23,140 sf)

structure :
reinforced concrete, steel
1 story and 1 basement

finish :
exterior wall: zinc panel, exposed concrete, stone (red granite)
exterior floor: precast concrete
interior wall: exposed concrete, stone (red granite), gypsum board painted
interior floor: precast concrete, wood (6' wide oak ) plank
ceiling: acoustic plaster and painted gypsum board