Herzog & de Meuron Going to Memphis

John Hill
22. May 2019
Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron (Photo: Marco Grob)

The Swiss architecture firm headed by the Pritzker Prize-winning duo of Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron has been selected to design a new $105 million building for the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis, Tennessee.

The announcement from the Brooks Museum comes a half-year after an October 2018 RFQ (request for qualifications) put out by the museum. The "Brooks on the Bluff" plan would relocate the 103-old institution — the oldest in Tennessee — from Overton Park to a downtown site overlooking the Mississippi River. The Brooks move is part of Memphis's "Bicentennial Gateway Project," which will "fully renovate and reconnect public spaces, attractions, and other assets along the historic Memphis riverfront," per the museum. Chicago's Studio Gang is working on those riverfront plans.

Brooks Museum executive director Emily Ballew Neff said the museum selected Herzog & de Meuron "because we respect their design philosophy: each project design evolves from a different and fitting formal response to the site and is then realized with unrivaled sensitivity to materials and craftsmanship. We’re embarking on a journey to create a landmark that will have enormous impact." The firm was selected after interviews with finalists that included a few of the usual suspects in such commissions: Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Johnston Marklee, and OMA - Office for Metropolitan Architecture.

Neff continued to say that "Herzog & de Meuron is exceptional among the architectural firms that design art museums for the way it creates galleries for a whole range of works of art." Furthermore, "Several architects at Herzog & de Meuron also happen to have spent formative years in and around Memphis. These team members will provide a kind of local knowledge that will surely contribute to the next project phase — design concept."

The new 112,000-square-foot museum (~25% larger than the existing building) will provide expanded galleries to showcase the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions. It will also include classrooms, theater, dining facility, museum store, more than double the existing storage space, and underground parking. Outside, the museum will create a sculpture garden for changing displays of art as well as for civic gatherings and public performances.

Herzog & de Meuron is partnering with Memphis's archimania. A design is expected to be unveiled by the museum in early 2020.

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