Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts

Arkansas Arts Center museum in Little Rock, a cultural building designed by Studio Gang

Location
Little Rock, AR

Status
In design

Client
Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts

Type
Civic, Cultural, Educational

Size
127,000 sf new construction and renovation

Sustainability
Targeting LEED Silver

Tags

Creating a vibrant space for social interaction, education, and appreciation for the arts, Studio Gang’s design for the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts transforms this premier cultural institution into a signature civic asset.

Working from the inside out, the design—which includes both new construction and renovations—clarifies the organization of the building’s interior while also extending AMFA's presence into historic MacArthur Park, opening the museum to the city of Little Rock and beckoning the public within.

AMFA's eight architectural additions have resulted in a motley collection of fortress-like spaces that lack a holistic architectural identity, clear visitor circulation, and visibility to the city and the park of which the museum is a part. Suffering from inefficient operational adjacencies, the museum's three impressive programs—a renowned collection of works on paper, the Museum School, and the Children’s Theatre—are disconnected from each other and their surroundings, making them difficult for visitors to locate and experience.

Conceived as a stem that blossoms to the north and south and anchored by major new visitor amenities, the design mediates between the museum's existing architecture to define a new public gallery and gathering space that provides an unprecedented axis of connectivity linking the museum's disparate programs and also serves as a focal point for extensive renovations that help AMFA meet its growing visitor needs.

Inviting visitors to experience anew the building’s original 1937 facade, the excavation of the existing building allows for visual clarity and transparency and reveals expanded spaces for performance, exhibition, and art making. Extensive renovations transform the museum, adding new dedicated programs that demonstrate best practices for art exhibition, conservation, and research, while the new architecture’s pleated, thin-plate structure signals a strong and reenergized visual identity.

Arkansas Arts Center North Entrance, art museum designed by Studio Gang
Arkansas Arts Center Axon Diagram, art museum designed by Studio Gang

Major new amenities anchor the architecture at both the north and south entrances. At the north end, a new Cultural Living Room acts as a flexible community space for gathering, respite, and contemplation as well as special events. To the south, an outdoor dining pavilion replaces the existing asphalt parking lot, opening the building to the park for the first time. Developed with SCAPE, the design reinforces AMFA's ambition to become a true museum in a park, adding more than 2,200 linear feet of new paths and trails and 250 new trees, which will merge over time with the existing canopy to form a parkland forest, while the architecture’s pleats collect stormwater to feed new gardens and native perennial meadows. Altogether the design embodies the museum's commitment to its community and its environs, strengthening its cultural and educational offerings and connecting visitors to each other, art, nature, and the city.

Arkansas Arts Center Interior Blossom, art museum designed by Studio Gang
Arkansas Arts Center Museum Restaurant, art museum designed by Studio Gang
Arkansas Arts Center Section Drawing, art museum designed by Studio Gang
Arkansas Arts Center South Park Entrance and Landscape Design, designed by Studio Gang and SCAPE

Consultant Team

Polk Stanley Wilcox, associate architect

SCAPE, landscape architect

Thornton Tomasetti, structural engineer

McClelland Consulting Engineers, civil engineer

dbHMS, MEP/FP and sustainability consultant

Arup, acoustics, theater, and A/V consultant

Venue Consulting, cost estimator

Ascent, project manager

Licht Kunst Licht, Lighting Designer

Nabholz Construction, Pepper Construction and Doyne Construction Co., Construction Manager & General Contractor

Awards

Winner, The Architect's Newspaper Best of Design Awards, Unbuilt – Cultural Category, 2019

Related

Now

ARCHITECT Magazine — "Making Space for Innovation"

Arkansas Arts Center Museum Restaurant, art museum designed by Studio Gang

"Reconnecting the currently incoherent sections of the center is the crown jewel of the project: a thin folded-plate concrete structure, dubbed the 'blossom.' It runs atop the center from the north to the south and reaches into MacArthur Park, offering a new axis of connectivity."

Now

The Architect's Newspaper — "2019 AN Best of Design Awards"

Arkansas Arts Center museum in Little Rock, a cultural building designed by Studio Gang

Five Studio Gang projects were selected for the 2019 AN Best of Design Awards.