When the Glenstone Museum first opened in 2006, it was a relatively modest contemporary art exhibition space that sat quietly on a patch of land outside Washington D.C.
Now, after five years of construction, the Glenstone is set to open a larger—and far more high-profile—expansion called the Pavilions that expands the indoor exhibition space from 9,000 to 59,000 square feet and the general property to 204,000 square feet. That’s a lot of art.
Thomas Phifer of Thomas Phifer and Partners designed the building as a series of pale cuboids built from sun-cured concrete blocks that rise against the land’s rolling hills. The 11 cast-concrete volumes, which comprise the galleries, are surrounded by an 18,000 square feet of shallow pond, complete with patches of artfully placed native plants.
Nine of the 11 galleries are home to a single artist, many of whom worked with the museums’ founders and architects to design the room to their own exacting specifications.
Before he died in 2014, the artist On Kawara requested that his work be exhibited in a gallery space with wood floors and a skylight. According to the New York Times, the artist Robert Gober had no less than 70 meetings with Phifer’s team to build out his specialized gallery, which required new plumbing, theatrical lighting, and lowered ceilings.
All that attention to detail comes at a cost, of course—around $200 million to be exact. But it’s a small price to pay for an art experience custom-designed by the artists themselves.