The renovation and expansion of the Erie Art Museum redefines the museum as a recurring destination for the community. With a goal of obtaining LEED Gold certification, the building is the first LEED designed project in Erie County. The project provides the museum with an innovative and recognizable building image consistent with the organization’s mission and goals. The building, located in downtown Erie, includes a new entry and public space, new spaces for permanent and traveling exhibitions, a multipurpose performance and program space, a café, and an outdoor ‘living room’ which will foster diverse activities, serve multiple audiences and house a sculpture garden. New education spaces, offices and back of house spaces are also a part of the project.
Constructed on a tight budget averaging $180 per square foot, the design team worked closely with the Museum and the Museum’s construction manager to maintain a project that would be delivered within budget. Bids came in under budget which allowed the owner to add elements not previously anticipated during construction.
Previously housed in two existing but noncontiguous buildings, the Museum committed to a project that would link the facilities, both physically and experientially, and provide a new, common entrance along with flexible gallery spaces and a large multipurpose room. Because one of the existing buildings is a historical landmark and owned by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the project was also required to meet standards set by the US Department of the Interior. The project incorporates a 10,000 sf addition along with reorganization and renovation of 15,500 sf of existing space to improve the functionality and environment of the museum. During the design phase, a third building, one which accommodates the Erie History Center, was acquired. The design team worked responsively and flexibly to revise the design to take advantage of and connect this additional building. A continuous visitor experience was designed by creating opportunities for experiential transition synchronized with the inevitable thresholds between different building structures. The addition provides an accessible and prominent main entrance with a dynamic architectural identity. It is porous, transparent and designed to capture and intrigue patrons and passers-by, encouraging the community to engage. The architecture cantilevers outward to capture the view from Erie’s main street. It was the museum’s objective that the project physically set itself apart from the adjacent buildings and incorporate color to contrast with the predominantly grey skies of Erie. The bold forms and the warm copper and metallic blue panels were developed to meet this need.
Innovative sustainable design features, including a large gallery with rotating walls that can be reconfigured quickly with minimal staff effort, helped to earn this project a Kresge Foundation Grant for Green Building Design and Construction. This design strategy eliminates material waste generated from constructing and demolishing temporary partitions, and reduces the staff time necessary to set up exhibitions. Green roofs, low water use plumbing fixtures, permeable paving, a permeable stormwater removal system, a tight, insulated building envelope, and an energy efficient mechanical system that performs to the high standards set by the American Association of Museums all contribute to a building designed to reduce operational expense and to limit environmental effect.