Tadao Ando first visited the Clark Art Institute, located in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 2001, having emerged as the clear winner in the competition to develop an architectural master plan for the institution, known for its top-notch collection of Old Masters and Impressionists as well as a hub for art historical research and conferences. On his most recent visit from Osaka, just last week, Ando surveyed the nearly finished project, camera in hand. Trailed by a scrum of journalists and museum staff, he regarded with approval and personal snapshots the expanded Clark and its transformed 140-acre campus, which opens to the public today.
The multi-phase project combined Ando’s talents with that of Annabelle Selldorf (who expanded and renovated the Clark’s original 1955 museum building), Gary Hilderbrand (responsible for the sweeping and sustainable redesign of the Clark’s grounds), and Gensler (which served as executive architect). Ando’s 42,560-square-foot Clark Center, the new stone, concrete, and glass centerpiece of the campus, serenely fulfills an astounding array of functions spread between two levels—reception, exhibition space, dining, retail—while uniting the new with the old and the built environment with natural wonders—verdant hills, trails, and a new three-tiered reflecting pool that later this year will become an epic skating rink. In describing the project, Ando emphasized the theme of continuity: “The continuity of the Clark family, the continuity of history, the continuity of the seasons,” he said. “There really is this continuity throughout the site.”