Walker Art Center

New Public Heart For A Renowned Museum’s Campus

As the Walker campus already had two signature buildings, the client and design team decided that they should not add a third charm to the campus’ architectural charm bracelet. Therefore, the pavilion takes cues from the adjacent Barnes masterpiece in materiality and massing to create an architecture that is deferential and contextual, yet still has a voice of its own.

Tucked into the existing hillside, the landscape appears to peel up to accommodate the pavilion and reveal a brightly lit, convivial space beneath. Accessible paths now meander through the upper garden through groves of trees and contemporary sculpture, and a green roof over the pavilion offers expansive views of the sculpture garden.

Visitors enter through a bronze clad vestibule lined in a highly-reflective seamless yellow aluminum liner. The entry from the underground parking has been vastly improved, where a formerly circuitous path through a cramped hallway has been straightened out and expanded to offer a direct visual connection from the parking lot to the sculpture garden. The pavilion contains a new restaurant that features an expansive canvas for rotating site-specific art and floor to ceiling windows that peer out towards Claes Oldenburg’s iconic sculpture, Spoonbridge and Cherry.

The renovated lobby, whose north wall was formerly enclosed, is opened up to views of the sculpture garden and Barnes’ original precast concrete tees, covered by a lid in the 2005 renovation, are exposed and celebrated. A new centrally-located information desk, satellite museum shop and cinema lounge area transform the lobby into a new public hub that connects the primary visitor amenities.

The new entry pavilion and renovation unifies the formerly disjointed site and presents a clear, bold new identity for the Walker Art Center. Through a series of simple but complex moves, the pavilion, renovation and upper garden now manifest as a public heart for the sprawling Walker campus.

The project includes a new 5,500 SF entry pavilion, which contains a new restaurant and kitchen, entry vestibule, foyer, and green roof. The project also includes a 15,200 SF renovation of the main lobby, parking entry, and mechanical rooms, as well as a complete reclad of the existing Barnes brick building to bring the modernist masterpiece up to contemporary energy codes and performance. Finally, the Walker’s previously incomplete 6-acre upper garden was renovated and integrated into the newly unified 19-acre campus.


Minneapolis, MN

Building Type



5,500 SF New Construction, 15,200 SF Renovation

  • 2017 AIA Minnesota Honor Award
  • 2017 ASLA-MN Award of Excellence, Walker Art Center Wurtele Upper Garden
  • 2018 National ASLA Honor Award, Walker Art Center Wurtele Upper Garden

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Past to Present:
John Cook and the Walker Art Center

See the evolution of the internationally renowned Walker Art Center’s campus and the museum’s long-term partnership with HGA. Through this video, we explore the evolution of the campus over the years – past to present – and the original insights of John Cook and Joan Soranno that have played a role in shaping this institution near and dear to HGA.