Machado Silvetti, “Asian Art Study Center”, 2016, Terra-Cotta Facade, Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida,
The Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida, is famed for its ornate Venetian-Gothic mansion named “Cà d’Zan”, meaning “House of John” referring to John Ringling, one of the famed owners of the Ringling Brothers Circus, who resided in the mansion with his wife. Construction started in 1924 on the mansion that was designed by New York architect Dwight James Baum. Baum’s design embodied the palazzos that line the Venice canals, emulating the Italian decor that the Ringlings fell in love with on their many trips to the Mediterranean.
The Boston firm Machado Silvetti used the showpiece structure of the mansion as a precedent for their design for the museum’s extension of the Asian Art Study Center. This new project included the conversion of approximately 18,000 square feet of preexisting gallery space from a temporary exhibition area to permanent galleries. Catering to the museum’s developing Asian collection, the scheme also included a gut renovation of the west-wing galleries, located to the southwest.
The most visually striking aspect of the project is the shimmering terra-cotta facade of the new addition. Asked for a monumental entrance to museum, Machado Silvetti created something unique to the site. More than three thousand jade-colored tiles clad the elevated extension, the color a nod to the natural surroundings but in opposition to the original pink Italian buildings. The facade with the tiles’ large mass helps combat heat gain while also acting as a barrier wrapping the extension from the elements.