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Walker Art Center's new entrance a cultural and community gathering spot

How does one merge the architectural styles of the Walker Art Center’s two buildings to create a new, welcoming entrance overlooking the famous Sculpture Garden? This was the challenge presented to architect Joan Soranno, a design principal at HGA Architects and Engineers, and her design team nearly four years ago.
“One of the things the Walker told us from the very beginning is that they didn’t want a third charm on the charm bracelet,” Soranno explains. “Meaning they have the original [1971] Edward Larabee Barnes building—the brick building, and they have the [Herzog & de Meuron] building built in 2005—a very different style to the Barnes building.”
Soranno and her design partner, architect John Cook, led the Walker redesign project, which includes the building’s front entry foyer off of Vineland Place, the adjacent parking ramp, and Esker Grove, a new restaurant by chef Doug Flicker opening in mid-December.
The main priority of the new entrance remodel was integrating the inside with the outside. This union is evident inside the parking ramp, where you can now see out onto Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Spoonbridge and Cherry. It is also notable in the extra windows added to the Bazinet Garden Lobby overlooking the Sculpture Garden.
“We’re trying to make the building a lot more accessible, a lot more inviting, with a lot more daylight and lots of views to the gardens—we’re trying to really integrate both the architectural experience with the landscape experience,” says Soranno.
Situated between the Sculpture Garden and the building itself, the new entrance on Vineyard Place acts as a community gathering spot. “This is why I like doing these types of projects,” Soranno says. “This project reinforces the Walker as one of the most significant cultural hubs in this nation with an entry experience that reinforces people coming together—whether for a meal, or to see a show, or for somebody who wants to be out in the garden.”
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