foster + partners debuts its transformation of the norton museum of art in west palm beach

foster + partners debuts its transformation of the norton museum of art in west palm beach

the norton museum of art in west palm beach, florida, debuts its transformation by foster + partners. the museum’s expansion includes the addition of new galleries as well as facilities for its visitors, and restoration of the axial organization and circulatory clarity of the original 1940s-era building. the new museum is no longer surrounded by car parking, but is now the pinnacle of an extensive, sub-tropical garden comprising a magnificent collection of contemporary sculpture. the museum will open to the public on february 9, 2019 with eight special exhibitions.

foster norton museum
the norton museum of art’s new heyman plaza, designed by foster + partners
featuring typewriter eraser, scale X (1999) by claes oldenburg and coosje van bruggen
all images by nigel young / foster + partners



the norton was built in 1941 as an elegant series of art deco-inspired single-story pavilions around a central courtyard. a later expansion broke the organizational symmetry, undermining axial configuration with the relocation of the main entrance to the side of the building. the new masterplan by foster + partners restores this axial layout and the clarity of the main circulation, and introduces new exhibition galleries and education spaces.

foster norton museum
detail of front entrance featuring typewriter eraser, scale X (1999) by claes oldenburg and coosje van bruggen



these new facilities include an auditorium, shop, restaurant and a ‘great hall’ social gathering space, as well as the lawn, appropriate for screening films outdoors. these facilities aim to attract a broader local and international audience. the design further peels away layers of previous extensions to reveal the original fabric of the historic galleries.

foster norton museum
the banyan tree at the norton museum of art, the inspiration for the design



a new street facing entrance to the west redefines the museum’s connection to the city. one of the primary influences of the design of the new entrance plaza is a monumental banyan tree that had been planted when the museum was first built. the extension’s new shimmering roof sweeps around the tree canopy, generating a cohesive composition while sheltering the entrance plaza. behind the canopy, three new double-height pavilions mediate the low-rise galleries and a pre-existing three-story wing, all unified with a shared palette of white, horizontally-banded stucco.

foster norton museum
the pamela and robert b. goergen garden at the norton museum of art



the garden is an integral part of the masterplan, enhancing the experience of art by reinforcing the relationship between the building and the rich florida landscape. the landscaping of the gardens incorporate native trees and flowers to provide shaded walkways, and an intimate setting for visitors to enjoy the artwork. the landscape forms the backdrop of the museum’s ongoing education program for schoolchildren, encouraging a greater awareness of the collection and florida’s environmental heritage. the garden provides a sustainable backdrop for displaying art, introducing a substantial increase in display space. see designboom’s previous coverage of the project here.

foster norton museum
new gardens, norton museum of art

foster norton museum
installation view of chihuly’s persian sea life ceiling (2003)

foster norton museum
new gallery, norton museum of art

foster norton museum
installation view of ‘going public: florida collectors celebrate the norton’

foster norton museum
new galleries, norton museum of art, west palm beach

foster norton museum
new galleries and gardens, norton museum of art

foster norton museum
sculpture garden at norton museum of art

foster norton museum
the banyan tree at the norton museum of art was the inspiration for the design by foster + partners



UPDATE: this project has been shortlisted in the ‘completed buildings – new and old’ category at the 2019 world architecture festival.

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