Architect Magazine: Balancing the Iconic and the Invisible at the Walker Entry Pavilion

Tasked with expanding the work of Edward Larrabee Barnes, Herzog & de Meuron, and even their own work at HGA, architects John Cook, FAIA, and Joan Soranno, FAIA, sought to balance the iconic and invisibility with the new Walker Art Center Entry Pavilion facing the landmark Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Here, they discuss their design inspiration.

How did the design for the addition develop?
Soranno: Andrew Blauvelt was the curator of design and is now director of the Cranbrook Art Museum. He was the protector of the campus. One thing that he was very clear on was, “We don’t want a third charm on the charm bracelet,” which, to me, teed up the whole project. We had to mediate between the very diverse language of the Barnes building and the Herzog addition and create something that responded intelligently to both but also tried to create a statement that is reflective of where the Walker is today. We decided early on that the addition wanted to integrate itself into the hill. So if you’re up in Petra Blaisse’s new upper garden looking down at our addition, you actually see no architecture, only landscape. I think it is quite a challenge to design a non-building from certain perspectives that is also the new front door to the entire museum. It’s invisible, but wants to have a strong identity and to be welcoming.

The new addition is also an entry from the parking garage. How important was that?
Cook: Seventy percent of people coming to the Walker enter through the garage. Before, it was a leftover connection between the Guthrie Theater [originally adjacent to the Walker] and the Herzog addition—a rabbit hole that led to ticketing via a narrow corridor without any daylight. Now, if you look through the corridor, the new foyer, and across into Barnes’ sculpture garden, you see Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggens’s Spoonbridge and Cherry. That visual connection, not only to daylight, but to the sculpture garden’s iconic piece—you can’t put a dollar value on that.

Read the complete interview in Architect Magazine.