Visitors to the Cleveland Museum of Art will witness dramatic changes as the museum’s renovation and expansion project—the largest cultural project in Ohio history—accelerates toward its 2013 completion. The entire footprint for the museum building has now been laid, and the building will be fully enclosed by the end of this year. This fall, museum staff will relocate from office space downtown to two floors of beautiful new offices above the atrium on the north side, ending years of commuting back and forth.
This will be the first time that the majority of the staff will be housed in a contiguous space in the museum. Offices on the third level will overlook the interior of the atrium, while those on the fourth level will overlook the museum rooftop. In 2012, the completed central atrium will open to the public. Visitors will then be able to enter via the north doors and proceed through the atrium to the 1916 building and the completed East Wing galleries, rather than using the current Art Detour path through basement corridors. In addition to the atrium opening, next year will mark the completion of the construction in the north and west wing galleries, the restaurant and café, the Lifelong Learning Center, and the museum store. In late spring, the temporary shed that covers the escalators in the East Wing including the wall with the portholes will be removed, bringing a flood of light to the cavernous space that currently leads visitors to the East Wing galleries and 1916 building. What can you expect to see when the atrium opens? The roof features 24 trusses, each just over 100 feet long, that support the 55-foot-tall sloping glass roof. Each of the 24 roof trusses is being fitted on both sides with acoustic panels to absorb sound, and the second-level Art Allée, located on three sides of the atrium, will feature an acoustical paneled wall covered by a wood slat design. Heating and cooling of the atrium will be accomplished by forcing air into the space at the atrium level and returning it at the allée level. The air will be constantly circulated and filtered and only cool and heat areas open to visitors, aiding in energy efficiency.
The south wall of the atrium is the original north entrance of the 1916 building, whose marble is currently being restored where it had been removed for the construction of the 1958 addition. The original marble for the 1916 building came from a quarry in Georgia that has been closed for a number of years; fortunately, the quarry reopens to participate in historic restoration projects such as this one. The marble has been mined and is currently in Quebec, where it is being cut and finished. The 39,000-square-foot floor of the atrium will consist of dark granite just like that of the East Wing. To help breakdown the expanse of the atrium, there are two 40 foot x 40 foot planters on either side of the entrance into the 1916 building. The planter on the west end will have large trees, while the east end will feature assorted greenery. Adjacent to the first-level entry lobby at the atrium level will be the new museum store, opening the summer of 2012, and the Lifelong Learning Center, scheduled to open in December 2012. This January, the museum’s temporary café will close in order to facilitate construction of the Lifelong Learning Center. It will be replaced by a temporary snack and beverage kiosk in the education lobby until October 2012, when the new café and restaurant will be ready to open at the west end of the atrium. The café will feature atrium seating, while the 60-to-80-seat restaurant will offer a panoramic view of the park to the west. There will also be a banquet room that seats 200 for events that do not require the size and space of the atrium. The lower-level 1916 west galleries will be reinstalled starting in June 2012. As 2012 draws to a close, the west wing and remaining construction will reach completion, and 2013 will witness the acclimatization and installation of the north and west wing galleries. Fifteen years of dreams and hard work will be finally realized in December 2013, when the expanded and renovated museum will open in its entirety for visitors from all over to the world to experience and enjoy.