Two blues. The neon signage of the Norton Museum of Art shines in Yves Klein blue against the deep blue sky of West Palm Beach, a good hour’s drive north of Miami Beach. In front of the entrance stands a sculpture, almost six meters tall, in a rectangular water basin; it seems to hover over the surface. “Typewriter Eraser, Scale X” by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen from 1999 celebrates a tool from a past era. The brush fibers of the eraser stand out strikingly and stridently in the air, pointing toward the new extension by Foster + Partners – perfectly connecting the past and present of this extraordinary art space in Florida.
The Norton Museum of Art opened in 1941. It is home to the industrialist Ralph Norton’s collection; around 7,600 works from a wide range of eras are on display here. The extension and garden were added recently. Thirty-five percent more exhibition space, and a large tropical garden laid out by Foster + Partners along the south side.
The museum reopened in 2019. The result is an airy elegance perfectly suited to the Walter Knoll furniture. For the newly created restaurant with a view of the tropical garden, the Deen chair that EOOS designed for Walter Knoll was selected. For Foster + Partners, its straightforwardness and specially made white, filigree legs are the embodiment of the uncomplicated Palm Beach lifestyle. “The chair is very comfortable, has a good height for dining at the table, and looks good from behind too.” The coated chair legs also complement the new micro-terrazzo floor of the restaurant. “The whole thing looks cool, but not cold,” explain the architects. Foster 512 benches with a graphite gray frame await visitors in the exhibition rooms. A semicircular version of the model that Foster + Partners designed for Walter Knoll can be found by the stairway.
Understatement in rooms and furniture. For the architects, “the stage belongs to art and nature.” And so, in time for its 80th birthday next year, the Norton Museum of Art has without a doubt become the best version of itself.