In the late 1990s, the Tacoma Art Museum (TAM) in Tacoma, Washington announced its plan to relocate from the bank building that it had occupied since 1935 to a new site on the waterfront with views of Mt. Rainier.  National Design Award-winning architect Antoine Predock was selected to design a building that more than doubled TAM’s exhibition space and also formed the foundation for a new cultural district in the city. Predock’s building drew inspiration from the light and water of the area, as well as Mt. Rainier.  The design for the building anticipated future development, including a parking lot that would create a visual buffer between the traffic of the nearby highway, I-705, and the TAM.

Predock conceived of a space that centered on a stone garden, allowing light and air to fill the core of the building.  Mirrored glass would be positioned around the stone garden at the end of a central hallway that joined the lobby and museum entrance with the galleries.  The mirrored glass would reflect both the stone garden and the natural panoramas, including Mt. Rainier, creating an infinite reflecting vista in the core of the building.  This drawing is one of a sequence that Predock made to illustrate this concept to his client.  The completed building, which was finished in 2003, deviated only slightly from this sketch. The only significant change is the indication in this rendering of the stone used in the garden, which was initially planned as blackened basalt, but was ultimately constructed out of lighter-colored granite.

The medium of drawing is particularly important for Predock.  He sketches frequently as part of his design process, but also whenever he travels.  He has written that drawing “is both a vehicle for understanding and a gestural act unto itself.”  For Predock, drawings are not “about detail or proportion.  They are about the spirit of a building or place.”

Caitlin Condell is the Assistant Curator and Acting Head of the Drawings, Prints & Graphic Design Department at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

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