Bruder creates addition to Nevada Museum of Art
December 22, 2014
So you're Will Bruder, and the building you designed for the Nevada Museum of Art a dozen years ago is considered one of the architectural icons of Nevada — perhaps even the West.
And then folks from the museum call and say they still like the building — like it a lot, in fact — but would you mind putting just a little addition onto the side of the building to handle expansion of the Museum School?
And if you're Will Bruder, you don't feel like someone has just asked you to paint a couple of palm trees into the background of the Mona Lisa.
Instead, the Phoenix-based architect was eager to take on the challenges of finding ways in which an established building can meet changing needs.
"Architecture is a living art form," Bruder said during a visit to the museum last week.
When the museum opened in 2003, its school occupied only a modest space along an alley at the southwest corner of the building.
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But as the education programs began growing under the direction of Claire Muñoz, director of the E.L. Cord Museum School, the first space proved inadequate.
The museum's first step was one that Bruder views as critical: They called back the architectural firm that had handled the original design.
Bruder's team learned that The E.L. Cord Museum School is a busy place, and getting much busier in a big hurry.
Classes are scheduled six days a week, running from mid-morning through the evening.
In 2013, more than 1,400 students enrolled in 237 classes — up seven-fold in the past decade. And the number dipped only slightly this year, when classes were held in other locations while construction was underway.
While adults account for a large share of the enrollment in classes that range from figure drawing to photography and pottery, classes for students and teens are growing as well.
Muñoz says "Art High," a class that helps fill the gap for teenagers as financially strapped public schools cut back on art education, is has been particularly well-received.
About 35 instructors — including a number of well-known local artists and photographers — teach at the school.
The expansion designed by Will Bruder Architects and built over five months this summer and fall by Clark & Sullivan Construction of Sparks added only 1,000 square feet to create a 3,800-square-foot museum school. But those 1,000 square feet allowed big changes.
For starters, Muñoz said the additional space allowed creation of an additional classroom. That, in turn, reduces aggravation as artistic endeavors that create a mess can be separated from classes that need a pristine environment.
But Bruder set out to do more than simply add classroom space.
An important need at the school, Muñoz said, was space where students could visit before and after classes. The new design is anchored by a glass-walled gathering space inside the school's front door.
"This has its own specialness now," Bruder said. "It has to do with opening it up, making space, making it transparent."
The glass of the gathering space echoes the windows on the restaurant on the north side of the museum — windows whose openness emphasize the black mystery of the rounded dominant shape of the museum.
The bright paint scheme that designates the three classroom studios — orange, people and green — is designed to create energy throughout the building. Simple fluorescent light fixtures are installed vertically on walls, creating a sculptured look.
Clips on wires along the school's hallways allow for impromptu showings of student art.
As it draws on design elements from the original museum building, there's no sense that the school is an addition.
"People see it, and they don't remember what was here before," said Bruder. "It's organic, and that was our goal."
The budget for the expansion and remodeling was set at $650,000. Financial support was provided by E.L. Cord Foundation, Clarence and Martha Jones Family Foundation, Bank of America and Switch.
"Education is a big part of our mission, and we used to have classes," says Muñoz. "Now we have a school."