A 2014 Gulf States AIA award winner, the repurposing of a small abandoned mid-century modern bank into the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum (RAM) lifts expectations for a neglected neighborhood, serves as an exemplary tale of urban reuse and renewal, and acts as a beacon for the arts.
The challenge of new architecture is creating that first personal statement that reflects a client’s mission through design - buildings should mirror their use; however, the greatest challenge faced on the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum (RAM) was reinterpreting an existing mid-century building into something fresh and new, while at the same time maintaining its architectural integrity. When hired for the commission, the project was well underway, having completed demolition, some infrastructure upgrades and complete site clearing. Our task was to redesign the entire project, simplifying planning and scope, while still creating a unique expression to identify the building with the RAM… all for the $1.3 million dollars remaining ($81.00/sf).
Thoughtful decisions, no matter the size or budget available, can pay big dividends. Our key design solution was the addition of the “lantern”, a frosted glass iconic light box that changes colors in the same manner as the Museum’s logo changes each season. For only $35,000, the building was instantly transformed and became identifiable with RAM only, and a new destination for the arts came to life in Fort Smith, Arkansas. In the end, the subtle interventions implemented in the rest of the building’s spaces & galleries reflect the crisp, clean nature of the art housed within.
The RAM was also honored with the State’s top award for 2013 for Renovation through Rehabilitation by the Historic Preservation Alliance.