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Palmer Museum of Art

Penn State University

The original Museum (a functional, no-frills, modern building) was opened in 1972 as part of a visual arts complex. The original Museum lacked its own exterior entrance and was almost invisible in one of the busiest parts of campus. The mandate for this University Art Museum was to create a highly visible presence with strong campus and public identity, incorporating the original Museum building. The new Museum engulfs the old modernist block, which serves as a hub for the new additions. The relationship between the old and new is clear, but the new is dominant. The old first floor was gutted to become an auditorium and linear lobby connection to the gallery wing. The upper floors became offices and storage. The additions do not align with the grid of the old building, rather they create a dialogue between the orientation of neighboring campus buildings, the main campus thoroughfare, and the intersection of major campus walkways.

The dense red brick and broken arches used on the new Museum addition were inspired by a nearby turn-of-century building. The crescent-shaped loggia and front entrance, flanked by two monumental Nittany lion’s paws (the University mascot) define an edge to the piazza that spills into the left-over space created between the new Museum and a classroom building that brings hundred of students to the piazza hourly. Incised into the concrete of the piazza is a richly colored radiating geometric pattern.

Each participant had a sense of ownership in the Museum, and I can't stress this enough — a real sense that they had taken part in this.