Back to the Hood, a center of controversy

While many in the art world had issues regarding the renovations, staff and students far exceeded initial criticism.

by Gianna Totani | 02/11/22 02:05

The Hood Museum of Art underwent controversial renovations beginning in 2016.

This article is featured in the special Winter Carnival 2022 issue.

In 2016, the Hood Museum of Art broke ground on a $50 million renovation, an expansion of the College Arts District that was part of President Hanlon’s Call to Lead campaign. According to The New York Times, the renovations removed the museum’s original features designed by postmodern architect Charles Moore and, as a result, sparked much controversy – critics argued at the time that the new designs mistreated the meticulously planned and deeply meaningful original architecture. College and museum staff, however, argued that the renovations were necessary and respectful of Moore. Since the Hood’s reopening in January 2019, they say, renovations have allowed the Hood to expand its ability to meet the museum’s mission to be a vibrant teaching museum.

The original Hood Museum, a 40,000 square foot postmodern building, was constructed of Flemish brick with a gray brick cornice and copper roof. Its purpose was to house under one roof the thousands of exhibits that Dartmouth had collected since the 1770s. Opened in 1985, Moore’s museum comprised ten galleries, a study storage facility, administrative spaces and an auditorium that could accommodate about 200 people. The Hood was intended for a much smaller collection, staff, and educational program than currently exists. The building also had some structural issues; it was built without a vapor barrier, allowing mold, rot and rust to form under the crumbling roof.

Architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, internationally renowned for their modernist and meditative style, were chosen by a committee to carry out renovations and expansions at the Moore Museum. Williams and Tsien intended to create – architecturally – “a quiet space”, according to the Hood website. Through the use of minimal colors and simple shapes, the museum acts as a functional space where the artwork is the first feature visitors notice and interact with.

Although the advances made by Williams and Tsien enabled the Hood Museum of Art to fulfill its purpose as an educational museum, critics accused the new design of completely destroying Moore’s conception. According to Metropolis, an architecture magazine, renovations have become popular with the architectural press because of the controversy they caused.

The Hood’s renovation by Williams and Tsien is quite ironic – the popular art gallery at the Museum of Modern Art, designed by the duo, was demolished in 2014 to make way for new galleries. Just as some protested the renovations, Williams and Tsien protested the demolition of the Folk Art Museum. For some, it was paradoxical that the same architects destroyed a “gem” work by another highly respected architect, Charles Moore.

EJ Johnson, author of “Charles Moore: Buildings and Projects 1949-1986,” told The New York Times in 2016 that what Tsien and Williams did to Moore’s building was “insensitive.”

“It’s almost like they’re getting revenge for what MoMa did to their folk art museum,” Johnson said.

Even more irony arises; Tsien was one of Moore’s students at the University of California, Los Angeles. Tsien said in 2016 that she thought the new design was respectful.

“We moved some things, we added some things, and we restored a lot of things,” Tsien said. “We are doing a lot to take care of his legacy. It doesn’t keep it exactly the same, but it keeps it alive.

At the time of the controversy, Kevin Keim, director of the Charles Moore Foundation in Austin, TX, said he was outraged by the renovations.

“Not only is the entire north end of the original building destroyed, but the entire design of Moore’s building is fundamentally destroyed,” Keim said in 2016. reflexive. .”

Hood Museum director Stomberg said that while he “respects” the opinions of critics, he thinks most of them have never even seen the museum in person.

“There’s nothing I can say to a true lover of Charles Moore architecture that will make him feel comfortable with this building,” Stomberg said. “One of [the critics] said to me: ‘You cannot touch a single hair of his head’, but the [new] the build really works.

Former Hood Assistant Manager Juliette Bianco ’94 was able to experience Moore’s Hood as a 25-year-old student and employee. Bianco, now director of the Weatherspoon Art Museum at UNC Greensboro, believes Moore did not anticipate the conversations students might have when they toured the museum and witnessed the juxtaposition of objects from different cultures and times.

“The [original] Hood was built like a house to keep all of these items safe,” Bianco said. “Over the next 30 years, through practice, we learned that, in fact, these objects had a unique and powerful role to play in the education of Dartmouth students.”

Stomberg thinks Moore intended to create a space that was as much an architectural experience as it was about art.

“There was a lot of architecture here,” Stomberg said. “Like, you couldn’t find the front door, so you had to work there, and you had to go in through a walkway, then go around and up a walkway.”

Moore’s architectural antics didn’t stop at the low-key front door. Once you figured out how to get into the museum, there were dead-end stairs and corridors around every corner, similar to a maze.

“Everywhere you turned you were really aware of the architecture,” Stomberg said. “And I think that must have been what [Moore] intention: that the architecture participate in a sonic way in the aesthetic experience of the visit.

According to Stomberg, the committee gave Williams and Tsien four key tasks to complete in the renovations. The first was to make the Hood visible from the Green. Second, Moore’s yard proved inconvenient during harsh New Hampshire winters, so the committee wanted the remodeled Hood to have an interior social space. Third, the Hood wanted more galleries to exhibit the 65,000 pieces they now have. The committee also wanted to expand the teaching space of the original combined study and storage facility and add more staff offices, as Moore’s museum was designed for a staff of only ten.

As a result, Hood’s expansion required an entrance that students could easily locate from the Green. Visitors enter through an interior atrium where special events and daily student activities can take place. The Hood also gained five new galleries, allowing for a more diverse set of collections, such as Australian Aboriginal art, Native American art and iconic modern works by artists such as Ed Ruscha, Mark Rothko and Lorna Simpson. Finally, access to Hood programs for faculty and students from all four schools and 40 interdisciplinary departments and programs has been tripled. With the addition of the Bernstein Center for Object Study, the Hood now has an Object Study Center with three technology-enhanced object study rooms inside.

Hood’s curator of academic programming, Amelia Kahl ’01, said she hopes students know the Bernstein Center isn’t just for art students. Kahl noted that in several disciplines, the Hood Museum is a valuable source for students.

“I just hope that even though the Bernstein Center for Object Study isn’t as visible as the galleries, students can understand that we’re there and take advantage of us as a resource,” Kahl said.

Lawson Greene ’25 said he appreciates the Hood integrating art into Dartmouth’s liberal arts curriculum, which is sometimes overlooked.

“I think sometimes in the liberal arts model, sometimes we forget about the arts,” Greene said. “I think having the Hood here on campus and available to students on a regular basis is a way to keep the arts in our lives. It’s nice to have a museum on campus where you can go with rotating exhibits and especially student participation.

Isla Kilby ’25 takes advantage of the connection the Hood Museum creates between Dartmouth and the Upper Valley.

“I think what’s really cool about the Hood is that it has all this amazing artistry, and it’s really something that Dartmouth students and people from the Upper Valley can be a part of,” said said Kilby. “Elementary and middle schools come to the Hood to learn, and it’s just a really cool way to connect Dartmouth to our community.”

About Margaret L. Portillo

Check Also

Cyberattack Hits Los Angeles School District: NPR

Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent Alberto Carvalho comments on a cyberattack on LAUSD information …