On a beautiful December day, Robert, Lulu and I travelled up picturesque Route#7 to Williamstown, MA. to see the new Tadao Ando addition to the CLARK MUSEUM. On this trip, we were more interested in the architecture than the art, although we looked in the galleries as well. A little history; in 1955 Sterling Clark engaged the architect Daniel Perry to design his private museum.  His request was for a classically styled, domestically scaled and solidly constructed building for the art collection he had carefully assembled over forty years. The original building evokes a Greek temple clad in beautiful Danby marble. It has elegant details and a neoclassical facade.

Fortunately, the Clarks, who had both died within 5 years of the opening of the museum, did not place any restrictive covenants that would determine the future institutional course; the trustees were at liberty to expand the programatic direction of the Institute.  To accommodate the research library and academic direction of the museum as well as a growing audience of visitors, a new building was designed by the Dean of Architecture at MIT in 1973. That building was a Brutalist style granite structure, at odds with the gracious and elegant original building. Other small additions were made creating a library, another exhibition gallery, a public cafe and additional office space.

However, starting in 2001, a master plan was announced to transform and expand the museum without changing the intimacy of the space that defined it for 50 years. The result is that the Clark now has a welcoming visitors center and retail space, conference rooms and a reorientation of the galleries. The new building responds to the beautiful natural surroundings and preserves the intimacy desired by the Clarks. Granite from a local quarry softens the new modern structure with its textured surface and soft gray color. The two existing buildings are now aligned with the new addition and with the environment.

The landscape architect Reed Hilderbrand configured miles of walking trails, planted 100 species trees and added a 1 acre reflecting pond. Additionally, New York architect, Annabelle Selldorf, reconfigured the classical original Clark building. Every surface and wall was analyzed and brought together into a tranquil whole. The conclusion is that the art looks better than ever.

The Clark is now a place to visit for favorite works of art, beautiful vistas, well managed trails for hiking and, most of all, an architecturally coherent place fully engaged with its’ surroundings in the Berkshires.

The Clark Museum

Williamstown, MA


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