We willingly go far and wide to see museums. So it was great to see a museum practically in our back yard; Ando’s addition to The Clark in Williamstown.
These pages have addressed the work of Tando Ando. We analyzed his Church of the Light. We took a look at his Church On The Water. Many of the geometric moves of the Clark are very similar to his Church On the Water. So it was a great treat to be able to walk thru an Ando creation. The kit of parts that comprise an Ando fabric were in full use; water, masonry planes, glass and heartbreaking modernist detailing.
We were there nearly two hours. And I think I looked at the art for about 10 minutes. The rest of the time I spent taking in the building. Or to be more exact, the views from the building. It was winter. There was a dusting of snow on the ground. The water from the reflecting pools had been drained. The passing clouds and the low angled light created a constantly shifting play of shadows and contrasts. My eye was continually drawn to the sloping hillside, the ridge, the trees and the sky.
There is no question that it takes a great architectural ego to devise a solution like this. And I am not using ego in a negative sense. The broad, low and expansive geometry of the addition as it extends across the landscape is a stand alone piece. While there are galleries in the basement of the addition, to get to the heart of the Clark’s collection, you go thru a long connecting tube.
It may very well be that the exquisite presentation of nature that the addition provides stimulates your visual acuities for the wonderful realistic paintings that follows. Possibly the formalized play of light and shadows sharpens your perceptions thereby heightening the effects of the light and shadows in the paintings that immediately follow.
Or possibly Ando’s building is saying that, I’m sorry, the paintings simply can’t compete. Possibly this is saying, you fools, why don’t you open your eyes for once? Will you please simply be aware of the fantastic world that is surrounding you every second of your lives? Will you for once just look at the rich visual tapestry of your everyday world?
If this building is saying the latter, then the architect’s ego is justified. For I could not resist simply sitting in various points in the addition and staring out at the wonder of the landscape. Possibly the focus on the landscape was the true brilliance in this solution. I don’t pretend for a second that this was an easy program to solve. The original museum was built in the 1950’s to look like a Greek temple. Then they put on in the 1970s a very dumb and blocky addition. Both of those buildings are confusing.
So perhaps an entry experience that is separate from all of this confusion truly is what was needed. Possibly a meditative entry sequence helps to cleanse what came before. You are offered a heightened interface with the natural world before you see the art and after you see the art. Maybe that really is all we need.
My drawing was done the next morning. It is a Choisey One Point projection. I used principally a floor plan I found on the web to generate my drawing. While I took many photos, I really did not use them; my memory of how the building worked was surprisingly clear. I just needed the plan as a confirmation of the geometry.