Norval Foundation (Art Museum) by dhk Architects
2018 - 2019, Golden A' Architecture, Building and Structure Design Award Winner
The brief from the client was to create a world-class art and cultural centre in an exceptional location that would be open to the public. The building is constrained by a linear site, between a busy road and a historically neglected wetland ecosystem that was completely rehabilitated. The aim for the building was to strike a balance between two motivations: protect the artwork within and maximise views of the natural landscape outside.
Norval Foundation is a modern pavilion for art, set against a dramatic mountain and vineyard landscape. It is a pure expression of form; a bold rectangular mass, delineating its heavy-walled enclosure and light oversailing roof. The building's linear circulation spine is positioned along the edge of the site, with the galleries facing the natural landscape, capturing framed views of the wetland, vineyards and mountains beyond. The technical requirements for the gallery spaces in terms of environment-control consider careful control of light, temperature and humidity, acoustics, and fire prevention.
Design Challenges
The site includes an incredibly sensitive wetland ecosystem that had been historically neglected and had to be completely rehabilitated. It is also one of the last known breeding sites of the endangered Western Leopard Toad. To allow the toads’ safe passage, concrete culverts were constructed underneath the road, with embankments and earth ramps designed to let the toads move easily across the site. As the art storage is situated underground, the challenge there was to create a sealed space that is carefully environmentally controlled for the safe storage of the artworks.
Production Technology
The materials are raw and honest, primarily precast concrete, natural timber, granite and glass, providing contrast with the natural landscape. Clerestory windows allow the roof to float above the heavy walls and allow soft indirect natural light to penetrate the interiors. Externally, the precast concrete is finished with a chamfered tartan grid, drawing the eye upwards and lengthways, emphasising the scale of the building. Internally, timber panelling is used to bring warmth to the spaces.
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