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June 3, 2022updated 27 Jul 2022 5:10pm

SO-IL chosen to design building for Williams College Museum of Art

The conceptual design process is expected to last around eight months.

Williams College has selected Brooklyn, New York-based SO-IL architect firm to develop conceptual design for a new building of the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) in Williamstown, Massachusetts, US.

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This new building would serve as the first stand-alone facility for WCMA, whose collection has been accommodated since 1851 in Lawrence Hall, which is the first library building of the college.

SO-IL has been founded by Jing Liu and Florian Idenburg in 2008. It has worked on several projects including the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the University of California, Davis, and an art campus for the non-profit arts organisation Amant in New York. 

Williams College has chosen SO-IL following the recommendation of a 12-member Architect Selection Committee comprising college representatives from WCMA, the faculty, and across campus, who together brought their expertise in arts, architecture, diversity and sustainability.

The panel considered almost 40 national and international architecture firms.

Along with the design work for the new museum, there also are plans for a detailed programming study of the historic Lawrence Hall in an effort to explore complementarities with the new museum and understand its full potential as a space for arts and academics.

Williams College president Maud S Mandel said: “Art is at the center of everything we do for our students, our campus, and our community, and so building a new home for Williams College Museum of Art is a focal point of the College’s strategic plan.

 “While the caliber and creativity of all the shortlisted candidates were awe-inspiring, SO-IL’s inventive and enthusiastic approach to our museum’s teaching mission stood out. We are confident we have made the best decision for Williams.”

SO-IL co-founders Jing Liu and Florian Idenburg said: “We are honoured to be working with the Williams community to envision the new Williams College Museum of Art, a project the brings together our passion for the arts with our commitment to education.

“The new museum will connect the campus to the larger cultural ecosystem of the Northern Berkshires and provide an opportunity to advance innovative, sustainable building and museum practices, offering students invaluable expertise in responsible stewardship. We are tremendously grateful to be working alongside a team of the best students, faculty and professionals as we embark on this exciting endeavour.”

Following approval by the college’s board of trustees once the conceptual design phase is finished, the project is slated to proceed in line with WCMA’s centennial year of 2026-27.

The new museum will be located on the former site of the Williams Inn in Williamstown.

It will provide a huge gallery space for exhibiting over 15,000 works in the museum’s collection, as well as facilities for access to collections for requests by students, faculty and visiting scholars.

Furthermore, it will offer space for the community and other groups to gather.

In all design and operations decisions, sustainability will act as a driving force and align with the natural beauty of the landscape.

The conceptual design process is expected to last around eight months.

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