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Walker Art Center unveils addition and renovation plans

Minneapolis institution shows off the first step in campus-wide redesign

Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center unveiled a series of improvements late last week that kicked off a campus renovation for the contemporary arts center. Designed by John Cook and Joan Soranno of HGA Architects and the Dutch design firm Inside Outside, the new outdoor plaza, entrance, and lobby will connect the institution with the landscape and surrounding Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, and will also serve to unite the institution’s two main buildings.

“We wanted to create a real social center at the entrance,” says Joan Soranno. “In the original, the entrance was the town square. We realized the town square should be the garden, so now the garden will envelop the Walker.”

Cook and Soranno’s renovation and addition, part of a $23 million investment in the museum, will bridge the gap between the Edward Larrabee Barnes building from 1971, an award-winning, boxy brick structure composed of seven galleries, and the 2005 addition by Herzog & de Meuron, a lighter structure wrapped in aluminum cladding. The new space also includes a new store, the Little Walker Shop, in the lobby, as well as a new restaurant, Esker Grove. A set of new artworks has also been unveiled: X by Los Angeles-based artist Liz Larner, a sculpture located on the Walker outdoor plaza; Frank Big Bear’s monumental collage piece The Walker Collage, Multiverse #10; and Philippe Parreno’s indoor-outdoor commission, a three-part installation of active sculptures.

Director Olga Viso said as the Walker Art Center expanded over the years and doubled in size, it lacked a masterplan that connected the entire campus. This new scheme will take the gardens and new buildings into account, starting with the new entryway, which will, “create the virtual visual and social hub, a nexus that spins off like a pinwheel.”

The Walker plans to host an open house December 1-4 with free admission to introduce the new spaces. The final steps of the renovation, scheduled to open in 2017, will include a $10 million reconstruction of the garden—the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture, a city icon, was created for the space by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen—the greening of Hennepin Avenue, and the addition of hundreds of trees to the 19-acre campus.