WIlliams College Museum of Art by SO – IL

Nestled among the rolling Berkshire hills of Western Massachusetts, the new Williams College Museum of Art is an ambitious pursuit of excellence in arts education and sustainable museum design.

This interdisciplinary campus hub will provide a new cultural nucleus to Williams, with facilities for its renowned art history and museum studies programs housed alongside display and storage for the museum’s extensive collection.

Image © SO – IL

Perched on the western edge of campus, it will stand as a welcoming gateway to both the college and the rich cultural offerings of the Berkshires. The new museum’s design stems from a holistic integration of art, architecture, community, and nature, reimagining the traditionally insular art museum into a porous, reciprocal conversation with the outside world.

Sensitively composed in response to both its location and an extensive multi-stakeholder design process, WCMA’s new home will facilitate a unique ecology of social, programmatic and educational exchange in direct dialogue with its natural surroundings.

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A courtyard garden at the heart of the museum centers nature on the site, drawing daylight into the interior. Rather than a single monolithic structure, dispersed volumes gather around this
central space.

Each of these pavilions houses diverse functions, including galleries for temporary exhibitions and the permanent collection, dynamic classrooms, a study center, an auditorium, and a cafe.

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An exposed mass timber structure engages with the surrounding woodlands, echoed by wooden ceilings and flooring in galleries. Clerestory windows draw soft natural light into gallery spaces, while intentional break spaces between pavilions offer views to the outdoors, allowing for informal interactions with art and the natural world.

An undulating roof unifies the museum in a sweeping gesture of cohesion, inscribing an iconic signature onto the landscape. Shingled metal peaks and curves harmonize with the surrounding hills, cresting against the skyline before dipping low to open into the central courtyard.

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A generous overhang creates a porch space at the perimeter, extending programming outdoors while providing year-round protection from the elements. Engineered via an experimental technique in warped Cross Laminated Timber, the roof will be the first of its kind in North America.

The museum’s design adheres to the rigorous Living Building Challenge 4.0/Core Green Building Certification standards, aiming to be the most sustainable museum in the country. With a focus on renewable materials as well as innovative lighting and climate control techniques, the design targets as little as 30 percent of the current baseline energy usage for art museums.

Image © SO – IL

The roof’s overhang aids in temperature regulation while facilitating a rainwater retention system for irrigation, bolstered by bioretention basins which capture and treat run-off. Landscaping supports the College’s reforesting efforts, adding native trees and forgoing manicured lawns in favor of flowering meadows.

As the College’s first purpose-built, free-standing museum, the new Williams College Museum of Art will support a legacy in art education and inspire generations of students while providing an innovative and exciting new addition to the diverse cultural landscape of the Berkshires. Source by SO – IL.

Image © SO – IL

Location: Williamstown, MA, USA

Architect: SO – IL

SO – IL Executive Team: Florian Idenburg, Jing Liu, Kevin Lamyuktseung, Jonathan Molloy

SO – IL Design Team: Florian Idenburg, Jing Liu, Kevin Lamyuktseung, Jonathan Molloy, Doh Lee, Andrea Fos, Marlena Fauer, Sean Broadhurst, William Dolin, Diana Smiljkovic, Yi Wang

Executive Architect: PDR

Construction Manager: Consigli

Owner’s Project Manager: Skanska

Structural Engineer: Fast + Epp

Timber Design Assist Partner: Nordic Structures

MEP Engineer: Buro Happold

Landscape: Reed Hilderbrand

Civil Engineer: Fuss & O’Neill

Envelope Consultant: SGH

Sustainability Consultant: Thornton Thomasetti

Code Consultant: Code Red

Lighting Designer: FMS

Storage Consultant: Schwartz Silver

Roof Design Assist Partner: Zahner

AV / Acoustics: HMBA

Curtain Wall Design Assist Partner: Roschmann

Client: Williams College

Project area: 76,800 GSF

Completion: expected Q4 2027

Images: Courtesy of SO – IL

Image © SO – IL

Image © SO – IL

Image © SO – IL

Image © SO – IL



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