Tag Archive | "Terrie Sultan"

Parrish Art Museum at the Halfway Mark

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By Claire Walla

I’m standing with Terrie Sultan, director of the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, on top of loose soil, while wearing a hard hat and close-toed shoes. No more than 30 minutes prior, the ground beneath our feet was a shallow ditch where electrical conduits had recently been placed.
“Things change so quickly here!” Sultan exclaimed.
It’s Tuesday, July 19, one year to the day since the Parrish Art Museum broke ground here in Water Mill at the site of its future location.
With a skeleton largely in place and concrete walls and flooring already poured, Sultan said construction is “more or less” where they had planned for it to be by now. Though she admitted this winter’s prolonged bout of snowstorms halted construction longer than site managers had projected, the project is still on-track for completion by summer 2012.
The grounds are still more dirt than anything else, and stray pieces of building materials — wood, nails, concrete slabs and Styrofoam — lie in piles waiting to be placed. But, the steel frame of the 12,300-square-foot long structure hints at what the final product will eventually look like.
Sultan takes me on a tour of the barren building while narrating form onto its steel ribs with a description of what the museum will entail.
“One of the points of the design is to actually show the process of how the building is put together,” she said.
Once we step around to the long, northern wall and stand where the main entrance to the structure will be, Sultan points to where the inside walls meet the ceiling. This is where the construction crew is placing light-colored perlins, practicing with ways to transition from what will be white, sheet-rocked walls to a ceiling composed of exposed wooden rafters and the corrugated metal that makes up the roof.
In addition, Sultan explains that a long, rectangular window inside the main entryway will not only peer into the museum, but will create a view that bisects the center of the structure and continues through the south wall and out onto Route 27 and the fields beyond.
“One of the major directives of the building design was to continue to emphasize the relationship of the inside to the outside, which was a major part of the architecture of the early East End because the light and the atmosphere is so beautiful here,” Sultan continued.
The original blueprint for the project called for several smaller buildings, all of various shapes and sizes, a concept that finds its roots in the potato barns that were once almost superfluous here, but eventually came to function as studios for many artists. Sultan said members of the museum’s board traveled to the working studios of such local artists as Fairfield Porter, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Chuck Close, Eric Fischl and Julian Schnabel.
“We wanted to absorb the atmosphere of how these artists work,” she said.
While the original concept of building several separate studio spaces was largely quashed by the down-turn in the economy (it included 64 walls of varying sizes — the current plan only has four), Sultan said the same concepts are still present throughout.
Plus, with this new model, the new Parrish will have what’s now being referred to as The Spine Gallery. This long corridor — literally, the spine of the museum space — will be used as the main artery channeling people and paintings through the museum, but it will also be used for exhibition space. In all, the museum will have about 12,300 square feet to use for gallery space, as opposed to the 4,500 it currently has in Southampton Village.
“The real dream has been to have the opportunity to work with the [museum’s] permanent collection and to demonstrate to this community just how much a part of this community we are,” Sultan continued. “And it’s happening.”
For her part, Sultan cannot seem to begin to express the level of enthusiasm she has for this project.
“This is better than everything I’ve ever done,” she exclaimed. “I’ve been in the museum business for more than 25 years and I’ve worked with some of the world’s great artists; and I have to say, nothing compares to this project, for the joy of the creativity involved. There are all these great minds … and I don’t just mean the architects or the landscape architects. It includes the builders and the structural engineers and the concrete people, everyone came to the table and talked about how this building was going to go up.”
“It’s a large-scale work of art,” she continued.
“This is every museum director’s dream, somehow: to have the opportunity to realize something that’s lasting,” she added with a smile and an air of appreciation. “Long, long after I’m gone, this building will still be here. And it will still be a part of this community.”

The Parrish Rethinks the Modern Museum

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No doubt about it — these are difficult times in which to begin any large building project. And for non-profits that rely on fundraising to finance their efforts, times are doubly tough.

It’s a good time to re-prioritize — and that’s exactly what the Parrish Art Museum has done in recent months.

Having long outgrown their current space in Southampton Village, which was built in 1890, the Parrish purchased 14 acres in Water Mill next to Duck Walk Vineyards a few years back with an eye toward building a new facility. The original plan for the museum, designed by Herzog & de Meuron architects, called for a series of inter-connected buildings — replicas of the studios and working spaces of some of the East End’s most famous artists – both past and present.

But given the economic climate, the museum has decided to re-visit its original concept and allow for an economy of scale which, Parrish director Terrie Sultan explains, will not only give the museum the space it needs, but allow construction to begin sooner, rather than later.

“When I came to the museum a year-and-a-half ago, we had a good discussion on proceeding with our capital project,” says Sultan. “We have a reasonable board and although we had raised a good amount of money, we agreed we wanted 80 percent in hand before we began the project, which has stood us in good stead. We didn’t have 80 percent but quite a lot and we knew we had to wait until we proceeded.”

Then the economy went south and Sultan and the board realized that raising the rest of the money needed for the original design was going to be extremely challenging in the current climate.

“The board acted responsibly and that’s how we got to this point,” says Sultan. “We knew we could not push forward with this. We based it on what we had and what we could raise.”

So Sultan and the board went back to Herzog & de Meuron.

 “It all happened very fast,” admits Sultan. “In March, the board and I met with the architect to let him know the economic climate was making it impossible to move forward with the original plan. We desperately need a new building and something we can afford to build. What can we do? Do you want to work with us to find a solution to this problem?”

Herzog & de Meuron, notes Sultan gave their response in the form of an enthusiastic, “Yes.”

Sultan points out, the redesign is largely a matter of economics as well as flexibility. While the original plan called for some 65 exterior walls, the new design is a single building based on 1,000 square foot grids with just four exterior walls. Structured like a long twin barn with two peaked roofs, the building is 600 feet long and 91 feet wide. It features a central spine which will act as a corridor and provide cross over points from one side of the building to the other.

“There’s nothing in this building except useable space. It’s a very streamlined process and a building that is more flexible, in truth, more sustainable and far more economically sensible,” notes Sultan who stresses though the design of the building has changed, the concept behind it has not.

“We didn’t abandon the artist’s studio concept,” explains Sultan. “Two things about the original concept were the desire for northern light and the allusion to artists in their studio. The way it was to be created the first time is different now, but the core concept and values are still in the plan. We’re alluding to the experience, rather than the space itself.”

“We’re not going to emulate or create spaces that are very specifically certain studios,” she adds.  “We’re looking more for the experience. A lot of that has to do with the north facing skylights and high ceilings and light washed walls. Instead of being so specific about any one person’s studio, this is a grand gesture about what the experience of being in that studio is like.”

One of the key features of the new plan that Sultan is particularly excited about is the large porch that will wrap around the entire building and a covered terrace at the western end that can be used to host outdoor performances.

“It’s an aspect of being inside and outside at the same time and the vernacular architecture of the East End,” says Sultan. “It’s a place to sit outside the building and a real smart way of incorporating the idea of a breezeway and open spaces you often see in the houses out here. You can take a sketch pad out there and draw and get a snack at the café.”

The new design comes in at around 37,000 square feet, slightly less, says Sultan, than that of the phase I design, but with much more functional space. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two designs, however, is the price tag.

 “The original plan was a total of $80 million — now we’re looking at $20 or $25 million,” says Sultan. “And we do have 80 percent — which means we can push forward.”

The Parrish is now beginning the permitting process and hopes to get the project underway in the near future. Sultan feels that by taking into account both economic and environmental efficiencies, the new plan represents the future of museum design.

 “You can do a beautiful and architecturally significant project for that budget,” she says. “The architects have proved it. I think it’s the new paradigm for museum architecture in the foreseeable future.”

“There are also things about the economic downturn that we’re hoping to take advantage of,” adds Sultan. “Cost of materials has gone down. We also want this community back to work — our artisans, contractors, steel and concrete people. We’re going to move as fast as we can. We still have some money to raise and want this to feel like a community project.”

The community is invited to two upcoming sneak peak previews of the design presented by Terrie Sultan and Philip Schmerbeck of Herzog & de Meuron. The first is Wednesday, September 9 at 5:30 p.m. and the second will be offered on Saturday, September 12 at 10:30 a.m.  The presentations will be held in the Parrish Art Museum Concert Hall, 25 Jobs Lane, Southampton. To reserve a seat, call Becky Zaloga at 283-2118, ext. 12.