Art goes green – the Grand Rapids Art Museum

October 20, 2008

GRAM, photo by numstead

View this photo larger right here and see many more in Nathan’s architectural photography set (slideshow). The Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) was the world’s first LEED gold certified art museum complex. The case study of the museum from GreenSource Magazine observes:

This handsome temple of art is, in many respects, a myth-buster. Art museums are widely believed to be “sustainability-proof” because they expend enormous amounts of energy maintaining constant temperature and humidity levels to protect their precious contents. Yet this building reveals that a balance between art and environmentalism is possible if architects, clients, and contractors pursue an integrated approach and factor energy savings into every aspect of the design equation. Sometimes that means borrowing green strategies from conventional structures; sometimes it means using new techniques to satisfy the needs of this demanding building type.

“Typical green solutions are often not best,” says a LEED case study of the museum, prepared by the design and construction team and submitted to the U.S. Green Building Council as part of the museum’s LEED submission.

Designed by Thai-born architect Kulapat Yantrasast of Los Angeles-based wHY Architecture and open since last October, the $75 million, 125,000-square-foot museum fronts on a vibrant, Maya Lin-designed public plaza in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, western Michigan’s largest city. Home to renowned furniture makers Steelcase, Herman Miller, Knoll, and Haworth, the region already has a rich lode of LEED projects. This one owes its green streak to former Steelcase executive Peter Wege. In 2001, he pledged $20 million, with one string attached: The building would have to be LEED-certified.

The Christian Science Monitor notes that there’s a trend for museums across the country to use green design & construction practices. Also check out this feature from the New York Times about the construction of the museum, the excellent Grand Rapids Art Museum: LEED Gold Certified / wHY Architecture in Arch Daily and this article on the GRAM from Greenline blog (who uses Nathan’s photo).

Here’s a slideshow of views of the GRAM on Flickr and some photography by Kevin Beswick on YouTube.

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