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Renovation continues on Dartmouth’s Hood Museum, a Charles Moore masterpiece

The Billie Tsien and Tod Williams-designed renovation begins partial demolition of the museum

Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth college
Partial demolition begins at the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth college
All photos by Gunny Harboe

Partial demolition of the the Charles Moore-designed Hood Museum at Dartmouth College recently got underway, part of a renovation plan formulated by husband-and-wife architecture team Billie Tsien and Tod Williams that began earlier this fall.

Designed in 1985, the Hood Museum, located on the Green, the quadrangle lawn on Dartmouth’s campus in Hanover, was one of the key works of Charles Moore, whom critic Paul Goldberger called "our age's greatest architectural enthusiast."

According to Kevin Keim, the Charles Moore Foundation director, the design's strength and importance come from the way it meditates space, linking the Romanesque, 19th-century, brick-clad Wilson Hall and the Hopkins Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Wallace Harrison in 1962. It's all about context, while also offering a unique reclamation of industrial space and industrial architecture, an aesthetic choice much more uncommon in the '80s.

Demolition of Hood Museum
Demolition of Hood Museum

The plan sparked criticism when it was unveiled in March, since it would convert the open courtyard into a covered concourse. Tsien and Williams argue there concept would add 40 percent more gallery space with keeping much of Moore’s work intact; critics argue that covering up the ceremonial entrance ruins a signature part of Moore’s design that serves as connective tissue.

Hood Museum Rendering
A comparison between the existing layout and the proposed addition

In a white paper about the proposal released earlier this year, the Charles Moore Foundation criticized the plan, and offered alternatives methods of adding additional space to the institution without harming Moore’s design.

Dartmouth College is raising funds for an expansion plan that will result in the demolition of over half of the original structure. Its architectural integrity will be destroyed, permanently. An important part of Dartmouth’s architectural legacy will be undermined.