foster + partners' norton museum of art extension in florida breaks ground foster + partners' norton museum of art extension in florida breaks ground
feb 08, 2016

foster + partners' norton museum of art extension in florida breaks ground

in 2013, foster + partners revealed expansion plans for the ‘norton museum of art’ in florida (see designboom’s feature of the reveal here). built in 1941 in west palm beach, the cultural institution was conceived to house the art collection of industrialist ralph hubbard norton, and his wife elizabeth. the museum was laid out by architect marion sims wyeth as an elegant series of art deco influenced single-storey pavilions around a central courtyard. subsequent expansion broke the symmetry of the original arrangement, and the axial configuration was destroyed by the relocation of the main entrance from south olive avenue to the south side of the structure.


construction is now underway on foster + partners’ masterplan that looks to restore the logic of wyeth’s original scheme, reasserting the clarity of the building’s main axis, balancing the varying heights of the museum’s volumes, providing flexible, welcoming visitor facilities to reach a wider local and international audience. it also provides the infrastructure for two additional exhibition wings towards the eastern end of the lot, to be erected in the future.

foster partners norton museum of art florida designboom
the museum is unified by a shared palette of man-made white stone
all images courtesy of foster + partners



a new street frontage facing south dixie highway to the west redefines the cultural institution’s relationship with its surroundings, and reasserts the main entrance on the central axis. the new entrance is signaled by three double-height pavilions, which mediate between the low-rise galleries and the existing three-storey nessel wing, thus unifying the whole composition with a shared palette of man-made white stone. the pavilions house a state-of-the-art auditorium, the grand hall, which will be the new social heart for the local community, an event space, education centre, and a museum shop and restaurant that can operate independently of the museum at night. all of these are unified beneath a shimmering canopy, which projects over the entrance plaza creating a new public space. the renewed scheme adds 12,000-square-feet of gallery space, and is designed to complement the existing building, making it more legible, open and in harmony with its natural setting.

foster partners norton museum of art florida designboom
the museum’s landscape takes advantage of florida’s climate, with lush exotic greenery



the perimeter of the grounds are characterized by a lush landscape and a row of houses along the southern border of the lot which will serve as artists’ residences and studios, a guest house and research facilities. taking advantage of florida’s climate, the flora of the gardens and central courtyard will incorporate native trees and flowers to provide shaded walkways, and a new green lawn that will provide an open-air venue for ‘art after dark’ — the norton’s most popular evening programme — as well as live performances and events.

foster partners norton museum of art florida designboom
the restaurant has views out onto the green courtyard



the new extension of the museum represents an exciting opportunity to place the reinvigorated norton at the heart of florida’s cultural life and to establish its international presence, allowing more people to enjoy the museum’s very special collection. reinforcing its natural setting with a ‘museum in a garden’ our aim has been to restore a sense of clarity to the existing building by reasserting the logic of the original plan; creating new event and visitor spaces that will transform the museum into the social heart of the community; as well as increasing the gallery and exhibition spaces, to engage with a wider audience, both locally and nationally.’ – lord foster, founder and chairman of foster + partners

foster + partners norton museum of art florida designboom
view of one of the double-height pavilions



this groundbreaking ceremony marks the moment where the process that began five years ago with the masterplan finally comes to realization. our approach at the norton has been to make art more accessible by dissolving boundaries – whether that is between the building and landscape, or art and the viewer. in addition to the increased exhibition areas, the new norton will feature at its heart the grand hall as a new social focus for palm beach.’ – spencer de grey, co-head of design at foster + partnersfoster + partners norton museum of art florida designboom
street view of the ‘norton museum of art’



the new ‘norton museum of art’ is set to revitalize and expand the existing museum, adding more galleries and visitor facilities, while restoring the original axial layout of the museum, set within an exotic floridian landscape. it seeks to enhance the experience of art by reinforcing the relationship between the building and the landscape and create a new social focus for the community. it also lays the foundations for the future growth of the museum to become one of florida’s leading cultural institutions.

foster + partners norton museum of art florida designboom
street view of the ‘norton museum of art’ by night


site plan


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