Speed Art Museum's Overhaul

The continuously evolving Louisville museum gets a new look.

(Photo: Rafael Gamo)

Since its inauguration in 1925, the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, has continually grown in both its physical spaces and in the breadth of its collection. This careful cultivation and strong identity has made it one of the U.S.’s leading art museums. Its latest expansion, by the gallery-design experts at the L.A.-based firm Why, follows Speed’s well-established path while also unifying its multifarious layers. An “act of acupuncture architecture,” as Why creative director Kulapat Yantrasast describes it, the design consists of a series of interventions not only on the inside of the complex, but also on its exterior grounds, all of them woven together with the existing spaces to create a single complex.

One of the key elements of the operation is a fritted glass skin with 400 custom-made panels that vary in opacity: The facade controls heat gain to achieve comfortable interior spaces suitable for an art collection. Seen from the outside, the building’s exterior gives the museum a unified look. The project’s most ingenious component is the relationship between the interior and exterior exhibition spaces. “These outdoor spaces are among the most important ‘acupuncture points’ of the design,” says Yantrasast, “because they flip the museum experience flowing outside and allow the overall complex to connect well with the campus and to freshly welcome visitors with activities of art, nature, and architecture.”

David Basulto is the founder and editor-in-chief of ArchDaily.

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