Tacoma Art Museum’s new Benaroya Wing draws in – and reflects – downtown Tacoma

The newest addition to flank the Tacoma Art Museum (TAM) is the Rebecca and Jack Benaroya Wing, a 6,595-square-foot expansion to showcase the Rebecca and Jack Benaroya Collection gift.

The wing opened to the public on January 19. Led by Design Principal Tom Kundig, FAIA, RIBA, and Principal Kirsten R. Murray, FAIA, the design of the Benaroya Wing balances opacity and transparency providing symmetry with the recent TAM addition of the Haub Family Galleries, also designed by Olson Kundig.

The addition also strengthens the visual connection between TAM and the city by activating the north end of the museum and offering a new platform for visitors to observe the urban context from the galleries.

“With the new Benaroya Wing, I’m most excited about the opportunity to break down traditional thresholds between the museum and the public. The new vista gallery is designed to entice people inside to view the Benaroya Collection by offering a peek-a-boo or a look into what’s happening inside the museum,” says Kundig.

The new Benaroya Wing is accessible to - and cut off from - a historic corner  of Tacoma by, yes sheets of glass, that separate even as they connect.         Photo courtesy of Tacoma Art Museum

The new Benaroya Wing is accessible to – and cut off from – a historic corner of Tacoma by, yes sheets of glass, that separate even as they connect. Photo courtesy of Tacoma Art Museum

The addition includes 4,800 square feet of new gallery space, which will contain works from TAM’s permanent collection, including the Benaroya Collection. Because the Benaroya Collection was originally a privately held collection, Olson Kundig and TAM identified key design strategies around a sensitivity to scale, lighting and protection of the art. The resulting design translates this private collection to a civic-scaled public exhibition forum.

The galleries include exquisitely designed modular casework and moveable temporary walls that allow curators to present the collection in multiple ways.

In addition to an expanded collection, the Benaroya Wing allows TAM to offer more visibility to the community. At the far end of the new wing is the vista gallery, which contains a 46-foot-wide window wall projecting six feet out from the building’s face. “The Benaroya Wing is an evolution of the original museum design –it is intended to be an extension of the larger museum building, but add a new level of transparency and viewability to continue the Tacoma Art Museum’s long standing goal of deepening their engagement with the city.” stated Murray. 

This window wall overlooks the Prairie Line Trail’s urban context of the city and beyond, including public art, pedestrian walkways,and bike paths.“As we work to make TAM more inviting to all our communities, this new wing is a visual expression of our philosophy of inviting everybody into the museum.” says David F. Setford TAM’s Executive Director, “It is an incredibly beautiful and adaptable space which will allow us full reign to showcase glass to the very highest standards”.

A new illuminated beacon for the museum, the Benaroya Wing draws the eye and creates a new point of connection between TAM, its collections and the community of Tacoma it serves.

– TAM