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Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art architectural advisory committee narrows search

The search for an architect to design the new Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin has narrowed to two candidates. UT Austin President Larry R. Faulkner and UT System Board of Regents member Rita Clements announced Monday (Aug. 21) that the names of two firms have been forwarded to members of the Regents’ Facilities Planning and Construction Committee for their consideration.

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AUSTIN, Texas —The search for an architect to design the new Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin has narrowed to two candidates. UT Austin President Larry R. Faulkner and UT System Board of Regents member Rita Clements announced Monday (Aug. 21) that the names of two firms have been forwarded to members of the Regents’ Facilities Planning and Construction Committee for their consideration.

After interviewing and hearing presentations from six semifinalists last week, the Blanton architectural advisory committee has selected the firms of Michael Graves & Associates, Inc. of Princeton, N.J., and Kallmann McKinnell & Wood Architects, Inc. of Boston, Mass., to present to the Regents’ committee. Both firms plan to work in partnership with Booziotis & Company of Dallas.

Clements, who chairs the Regents’ facilities and construction committee, will select a group of delegates to visit some of the buildings designed by these two architectural firms before a final decision is made.

“All six of the candidate teams brought superb credentials into our interviews, and all six represented themselves and their ideas excellently within the context of this project. We are most grateful for their effort,” said Faulkner, who chairs the University’s Blanton architectural advisory committee. “The two teams chosen as finalists distinguished themselves by their imagination, experience and commitment to this project and its possibilities. We are extremely pleased to be sending their names forward; we have full confidence in both.”

The firm of Michael Graves & Associates, Inc. has undertaken a wide variety of projects, including cultural institutions (museums, theaters and libraries), educational facilities, multi-use urban developments, corporate headquarters, hotels, sports and recreation facilities, housing and private residences. Graves also designs furniture, fixtures, textiles, accessories and artwork aimed at reinforcing the aesthetic integrity of his projects.

Graves, who founded his firm in 1964, has a longstanding interest in designing buildings for cultural and educational institutions and is particularly interested in the museum as a building type. Such projects have accounted for a large portion of the practice since its inception. His firm has designed buildings and master plans for the Newark Museum in New Jersey; the Detroit Institute of the Arts in Michigan; the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga.; the Taiwan Museum of Pre-History in Taitung City, Taiwan (currently under construction); the Indianapolis Art League in Indianapolis, Ind. and the Historical Center of Industry and Labor in Youngstown, Ohio.

Other significant projects in recent years include the award-winning 540,000-square-foot Denver Central Library; the headquarters of the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank in Washington, D.C.; and the Miramar Hotel in El Gouna, Egypt, which utitlizes local masonry building techniques and traditional architectural forms to create a unique resort setting on the Red Sea. Graves also is responsible for several projects for Disney, including the design of the Hotel New York at Disneyland Park Paris and Disney’s corporate headquarters in California. In addition, his firm designed the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Office Building in Fukuoka, Japan, which recently received one of Japan’s highest design awards, the first such ever given to an American.

Graves is the Schirmer Professor of Architecture at Princeton University, where he has taught since 1962.

Established in 1962, Kallmann McKinnell & Wood’s (KMW) portfolio is a diverse collection of projects for clients in government, business education and the arts. Taking principal responsibility for design of the Blanton Museum is Michael McKinnell, whose work — like that of Michael Graves — is found throughout the United States and around the world. McKinnell and his partner, Gerhard Kallmann, were full professors for more than 20 years at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and McKinnell was for several years the Nelson Robinson Jr. Professor of Architecture, the most distinguished position in Harvard’s architecture school.

The Boston-based firm offers comprehensive design services including feasibility studies, programming, master planning, architectural design, interior design and landscape architecture. Having analyzed the context in its various dimensions, McKinnell and his firm seek to have their buildings communicate purpose and meaning to the public.

During the past 10 years, almost 75 percent of KMW’s design services have been involved with academic institutions. The firm has designed projects at numerous universities, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon, Emory and Ohio State Universities and Washington University in St. Louis. These projects, totaling more than 3.5 million square feet of campus buildings, ranged from a small addition for the philosophy department at Princeton University to an entire new campus for the National Institute of Education at Nanyang University in Singapore.

KMW has been involved in museum and exhibition related work through its designs for the Peabody Museum’s Asian Export Wing in Salem, Mass.; the expansion of the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln, Mass.; and the current renovation project of the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, Md. At Yale University, KMW provided master planning services for the Yale University Art Gallery, the British Art Center, among other projects. The firm also designed Boston City Hall, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge, Mass., and several U.S. Embassies.

Both firms have received numerous awards for their designs.

The new facility will greatly expand educational opportunities for the Blanton Museum’s diverse constituents and is expected to become a thriving cultural center. The excellence of its art collections places the Blanton Museum among the top university art museums in the country. It is a vital teaching resource on the UT Austin campus and, with the largest and most important art collection in the region, it also serves as the premier art museum in Austin. The past five years have been a time of tremendous growth for its renowned collections, including the acquisition of the Suida-Manning Collection in 1998. The new museum building is expected to open in 2004 and to date, the Blanton has raised more than $32 million in gifts and pledges for its $65 million capital campaign.