Sunday, January 13, 2008
McNay Museum Sponsors Architectural Tour
With the McNay Art Museum's new $33.1 million expansion set to open this summer, the San Antonio cultural institution wants to make sure that the architectural cognoscenti understand the significance of its new building. The project is designed by Jean-Paul Viguier, who is not well known in North America although his recent work imbues the cityscape of Paris, his home and base of operations, with a highly refined sense of 21st-century modernism. At present, Viguier has completed only one high-profile building in the United States--the Hotel Sofitel Water Tower that opened in downtown Chicago in 1996.
The McNay expansion is called the Jane and Arthur Stieren Center for Exhibitions. Encompassing 45,000 square feet, the new building will double the size of the McNay. Originally built for arts patron Marion Koogler McNay in the 1920s, the Spanish Colonial Revival-style mansion was designed by local architects Atlee B. and Robert M. Ayres. Several additions during subsequent decades have expanded the size of the museum, but the additions have always followed the stylistic attributes of the first building.
Viguier's expansion project -- a sleek, glass-walled rectangle -- will stand in stark contrast to the original McNay mansion. The new building is remarkable for several reasons, least of all it's being a boldly modernist intervention within a city that prides itself as a place defined by its historical and cultural roots to the Spanish Colonial era.
To accomplish its objective of raising awareness of its latest expansion, the McNay invited a handful of architectural journalists on a five-day junket to France, a trip that begins Jan. 17 via a L'Avion flight to Paris. Texas Architect Editor Stephen Sharpe is among the guests, who also include Suzanne Stephens, senior editor of Architectural Record; Anya Eckbo, a writer for Architectural Digest Mexico & Latin America; Edward Madrid Gomez, a writer for Art and Antiques; and Alastair Gordon, a writer for both Town & Country and Architectural Digest. the group is being shepherded by Dr. William Chiego, director of the McNay, and Anne Edgar, a publicist based in New York who has organized the trip. Frédérique Chiffard, an architect with Jean-Paul Viguier's office will guide the tours. Viguier himself will lead the tours of his projects in Paris.
Immediately upon landing in Paris, the group boards another flight to Toulouse in southwest France to see a Viguier-designed museum of natural history. Completed in 2006, the project is similar to the McNay's Stieren Center in that it juxtaposes a historic structure against an ultra-modern building composed largely of glass.
The itinerary also will take the writers to Viguier's visitor center and museum at the Pont du Gard near Avignon and to several of his projects in Paris where they will spend two days with the architect to learn more about his work.