Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, Expansion and Renovation, Williamsburg, VA

  • Aerial View, Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg
  • Main Entry Pavillion, Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg
  • Brick Details, Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg
  • Curved Brick and Zinc at Expansion, Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg
  • Exhibition Fabrication Shop, Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg
  • Entrance Gallery, Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg
  • Orientation Gallery, Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg
  • Gallery and Cafe Beyond, Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg
  • Mount Shop, Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg
  • Museum Store and Interior Arcade, Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg
  • Curved Brick and Glass, Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg
  • Arcade, Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg
  • Entry Pavillion Sky, Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg

After the success of our earlier museum projects for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Vice President Ron Hurst asked us to lead this major expansion/renovation.  The goal was to enable the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg (consisting of two distinct entities: the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum) to fulfill their missions through:

  • Expanding exhibition space by 22% to include galleries for under-served collections.
  • Attracting more visitors by improving museum visibility and enhancing visitor arrival and orientation.
  • Enhancing visitor exposure to collections through a new layout that allows more fluid scheduling and more selective exhibition changes.
  • Expanding visitor engagement by including new technologies throughout galleries and other public spaces.
  • Increasing staff efficiency by consolidating the Exhibition Department’s design and fabrication functions into a cohesive suite.
  • Preserving the collections with new, energy-efficient climate control and fire alarm systems (including all new central plant) while segregating MEP equipment into a discrete zone separated from galleries and collections storage.
  • Achieving all of this with minimal closures.

In addition to new arrival, orientation, and gallery spaces, our design included a new restaurant and kitchen capable of hosting a variety of functions, and a new, larger retail store. The project included new wood and metal shops, a design studio, and double loading dock.  SAA and Mueller (MEP engineer) worked closely with CWF facilities staff to achieve energy-efficient, reliable, easily serviceable, and suitably redundant systems. The project included not only new air handlers but all new chillers, cooling towers, boilers, and emergency generator.  This project had strict budget and schedule requirements. 

The dominant architectural challenge derived from the unusual character of the original building designed by Kevin Roche 40 years ago: a long windowless brick box immediately south of the Historic Area, with no obvious entrance.  The two-part solution was to provide a suitably scaled brick, zinc and glass expansion on the south side that harmonizes with the modernist Roche building while bringing light and views to the interior, and a prominent classical entry pavilion at Nassau Street to the east.  The entry pavilion embodies the carefully proportioned scale and details of period architecture.  Gently curved brick walls are sequenced to draw visitors in, while resolving significant grade changes in the site.  Between the echoing brick walls are broad alternating panels of glass and zinc offering gentle backdrops to the landscaping from without, while affording expansive views from within.  Sunlight is passively controlled by the zinc brows overhanging south walls and an array of north facing zinc-clad skylights.

Client: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Architectural Team: Edward Gormley, Alexa Baker, Harry Murzyn, Yeon Wha Hong, Lis Cena, and Sam Anderson
MEP Engineers: Mueller Associates, Inc.
Structural Engineer: Severud Associates
Lighting Designer: Jeffrey Nash Lighting Design
Landscape Architect: O’Shea + Wilson Siteworks
Civil Engineer: Draper Aden Associates
Security: M. C. Peterson & Associates, LLC
Food Service: Cini-Little
Retail Consultant: CGA Architecture, LLC
Roof & Waterproofing: Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.
Builder: W. M. Jordan
Photographs: Scott Werth & Edward Gormley

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