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The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock reopens to the public

The complex has been renovated and extended through an eco-friendly project that reconnects the museum with its surrounding landscape, strengthening its role as a cultural center for the city

Studio Gang

Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts Studio Gang
By Editorial Staff -

We're in Little Rock, on the southern bank of the Arkansas River, in the heart of the United States, where humans have, over time, managed to claim their spaces while still depending on a natural environment that shows itself here to the extremes of its powers. Setting out from these foundations, Studio Gang ‒ in its first design for an art museum ‒ decided to rethink Little Rock's Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts not only in terms of architecture but also involving the whole of its surrounding context.

The project provided an opportunity to strengthen the museum's role as a cultural center for the city of Little Rock, bringing together various volumes in an ecosystem where the landscape itself is also an element. The complex now opens towards the city and the surrounding nature: it connects up, by means of new sculptural pleated concrete roofing, the eight pre-existing units built in different styles after its initial 1937 inauguration. The roof idea immediately brought new potential to the complex, opening up multiple prospects for reusing spaces for the activities the center offers visitors and residents alike.


Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, cultural living room exterior - Studio Gang © Iwan Baan, courtesy of Studio Gang


"The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts has been a beloved community anchor since its founding, but over time its main additions had resulted in a building that was isolated from the neighborhood and park. We saw the design as an opportunity to reconnect the building with its surroundings and to adapt and to reimagine the existing structures in ways that would welcome visitors, and support the vibrant, creative activities going on inside."
Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang founder and partner


Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, cultural living room interior - Studio Gang © Iwan Baan, courtesy of Studio Gang


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Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts in Little Rock

The new central volume, with its concrete roof, narrows and widens as it connects the museum together and to the surrounding park ‒ a feature that has prompted its description as a structure “similar to a stem that blossoms outwards”. Besides its esthetics, the roof shape has been designed in this way to accentuate natural light in the interiors and to best drain rainwater.

As well as the large spaces for the contemporary art gallery, which houses an important permanent collection, the museum also includes a research center, a 350-seat theater, the Windgate Art School ‒ which includes workshops, classrooms, and studios, a 153-seat lecture hall and the Cultural Living Room ‒ a spacious glass-walled community space where the public can relax and socialize and that serves as a venue for AMFA hosted events. On the south-facing side, the roof extends beyond the walls and lifts up to create a covered outdoor terrace for the new restaurant, fully immersed in MacArthur Park.


Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, AMFA Foundation Collection - Studio Gang © Iwan Baan, courtesy of Studio Gang


An inclusive and eco-sustainable project

Through conserving and reusing as much of the existing structure as possible, the design reduces the project's carbon footprint. Studio Gang's intervention has also transformed the neighboring MacArthur Park, with this part of the works entrusted to SCAPE. This landscape design in fact provides 670 linear meters of new pathways, bespoke concrete benches and a new woody grove on the western boundary of the museum site, alongside a sizeable planting of 250 new trees throughout the existing park. Besides these larger features, SCAPE has also focused on smaller details, such as gardens created with slaps of local sandstone to echo the shape of the museum's roof. These gardens collect and filter rainwater runoff from the roof that can be used for irrigation. Planted with seasonal flora, they recharge the site's groundwater and increase the park's biodiversity.


>>> Also explore the design by Morphosis for the new premises to Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) in California



Location: Little Rock, Arkansas, United States
Completion: 2023
Client: Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts (AMFA)
Size: 12,360 m2
Architect: Studio Gang

Associate Architect: Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects
Landscape: SCAPE
Structures: Thornton Tomasetti
Civil: McClelland Consulting Engineers
Acoustics: Arup
Cost Estimator: Venue Consulting
Lighting: Licht Kunst Licht
Project Manager: Ascent

General Contractor: Nabholz Construction, Pepper Construction and Doyne Construction Co.

Photography by Iwan Baan, Courtesy AMFA/Studio Gang

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