Racine Art Museum

Racine / United States / 2003

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Many of our projects have both professional and personal resonance— The Racine Art Museum in Racine, Wisconsin, is one of them.


Brad Lynch, who grew up in the city, took after-school art classes at the museum’s predecessor, the Wustum Museum, which still occupies a nineteen-century Italianate farmhouse donated by a local patron in 1941. When we received the commission for the institution’s first purpose-designed space, we possessed a deep knowledge of both the long-distressed city it was meant to help revive and the environmental conditions required for the display of the museum’s ceramic, fiber, glass, metal, and wood art collection. Located on a prominent downtown site, the 46,000-square-foot, three-story museum has quickly become a top cultural destination for Wisconsin and the region.


To create a new home for a collection that had seen limited public display, we reimagined a 1960s bank building that was a composite of seven structures, some dating from as far back as the Civil War era. A jigsaw puzzle of limestone, brick, concrete, and misaligned structural systems, the building had challenges but also great potential: it sat on a high-profile corner of Main Street with a view of Lake Michigan. We removed several additions at the back of the building to form an L-shaped footprint that could accommodate galleries, a museum shop, an art library and research center, art storage and preparation areas, and offices; within the arms of the L is a terrace overlooking the lake. We remade the Main Street facade, incorporating prominent entrances to the museum and shop and inserting large street-level windows that open the museum to the city. An atrium lobby frames views of the lake and floods the entry area with natural light, and a grand staircase leads to the largest of the galleries, where strategic use of transparency, translucency, and opacity optimizes the viewing of art. To stretch a limited budget, we left most of the building’s existing limestone cladding in place (a portion of it was reused as terrace material) and enveloped RAM in translucent acrylic panels. Iridescent during the day, at night they are lighted from above and form a luminous icon on the city skyline.

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    Many of our projects have both professional and personal resonance— The Racine Art Museum in Racine, Wisconsin, is one of them. Brad Lynch, who grew up in the city, took after-school art classes at the museum’s predecessor, the Wustum Museum, which still occupies a nineteen-century Italianate farmhouse donated by a local patron in 1941. When we received the commission for the institution’s first purpose-designed space, we possessed a deep knowledge of both the long-distressed...

    Project details
    • Year 2003
    • Work finished in 2003
    • Contractor Bukacek Construction, Inc.
    • Status Completed works
    • Type Museums / Interior Design / Lighting Design
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