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Chipperfield unwraps long-awaited Saint Louis Art Museum expansion

David Chipperfield has finally completed his £85 million extension to the Saint Louis Art Museum – almost eight years after scooping the high-profile job

The privately funded East Building will open to the public in June following a longer than expected gestation which included two years of masterplanning and delays brought by the 2008 financial crisis.

Featuring floor-to-ceiling glazing and a dark polished concrete façade, the 20,000m² new wing was designed to complement the museum’s historic 1904 beaux arts home which sits within Saint Louis landscaped Forest Park.

The coffered, top lit extension houses 21 new galleries for the publicly funded and free-to-enter museum – increasing its overall exhibition space by a third. A 100-seat restaurant, 60-seat café and 300 subterranean parking spaces were also included.

The new galleries will host works by post war and contemporary artists including Gerhard Richter, Jackson Pollock and Ellsworth Kelly.

Restoration works to the 1904 Cass Gilbert-designed museum included a new ‘grand stair’ linking the principal entrance hall to a series of underground galleries and the car park.

Chipperfield acknowledged delays had failed to make the project any easier. ‘It would have been nicer to have not stopped for two years,’ he said. He however added the long delivery time helped raise awareness of the project in the local community which was an important factor for any private benefactor.

The museum outlined its expansion in its strategic plan of 2000 and chose Chipperfield’s practice to draw up proposals for the new East Building ahead of a field of some 100 candidates in September 2005 (AJ 14.09.05).

Images of the extension project were revealed in late 2007 but the scheme was put on ice the following year when the recession hit. Construction eventually began in 2010.

HOK was the project’s architect-of-record and Michel Desvigne was landscape architect.

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