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Boston Taps Frank Gehry for New Museum

Thursday, September 14, 2017

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Legendary architect Frank Gehry has signed on to help design a new museum of architecture and railroads in Boston, but the plans are not yet set in stone.

Earlier this year, Gehry agreed to design the museum, as well as take charge of two other components that will be part of a facelift for the North Adams area of Boston. As for the primary project, The Extreme Model Railroad and Contemporary Architecture Museum endeavor is being championed by Thomas Krens, former director of the Solmon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and, according to Gehry, has “spectacular potential.”

Museum Developments

The museum, which is slated to be 83,000 square feet and cost $65 million, would house both train models—which would be kept continuously in motion—and replicas of some of the world’s most famous architecture.

“There is no real architecture museum anywhere in the world,” Krens told The Boston Globe. “People like miniaturization, and they are drawn to motion.”

The museum’s offerings will cover buildings created by 71 different architects in the last 150 years, noted Architectural Digest. In order to create an accurate world of replicas and miniatures, everything in the museum will be built on the same scale. Six of the buildings to be featured are Gehry’s own work. In a talk with The New York Times, the iconic architect expressed surprise at this.

“He didn’t tell me that!” Gehry said. “I don’t know which ones he’s picking, but I expect he’ll do it all justice.”

The museum’s ceiling will be 40 feet tall in order to accommodate skyscraper replicas, such as the Empire State Building, and trains will wind between the buildings.

So far, the project has already gained $2.5 million in funding from private institutions and state grants, but an application for a $5.4 million grant from MassWorks, Massachusetts' government infrastructure program, has also been submitted as an additional funding push.

Krens detailed that the bulk of the funding would come from investors, however.

“This is a for-profit endeavor,” Krens told the Globe. “We are expecting 500,000 to 700,000 annual visitors. If I get that kind of visitor-ship, we’re running a fairly simple museum. We expect our investors will be very handsomely rewarded.”

The hope is that the additional visitors will also stop in at the nearby Massachusetts Museum of Modern Art.

Larger Plans

The plans for the museum are part of something larger, however: Krens and others are pushing for a freshening up of Western Gateway Heritage State Park and nearby properties that include a distillery, a new park, a commercial art storage facility and other structures to be designed by iconic architects.

As part of this, Gehry will also be taking over plans for the Mohawk Theater, and will be designing a pedestrian bridge.

During a recent press conference, Mass MoCA director Joe Thompson said that, all together, these plans would “inject a tremendous amount of life into North Adams.”


Tagged categories: Color + Design; Design build; Frank Gehry

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