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Busy in the Heartland, David Chipperfield Designing St. Louis Art Museum Expansion

British architect David Chipperfield is quickly becoming a household name in heartland America. His Figge Art Museum opened in August in Davenport, Iowa, and his office is finishing up the Public Library of Des Moines.

Topping all this off is a commission Chipperfield just received to add 120,000 square feet to the Saint Louis Art Museum, designed by Cass Gilbert for the World’s Fair in 1904.

The museum’s selection committee, according to Saint Louis museum director Brent R. Benjamin, wanted “a building of our time” that would fit in with the Beaux-Arts architecture of the museum and its parklike setting. Chipperfield’s quietly elegant addition to the Neoclassical-style Museum of Modern Literature in Marbach, Germany, opening this month, reportedly helped give him an edge in a list of more than 100 architects.

What explains the appeal of the Briton in middle America? Benjamin thinks the Chipperfield cluster is a coincidence. However, director of the Des Moines Public Library, Kay Runge, says the architect responds to the “Midwest mindset.” She notes, “Chipperfield gives you individual buildings, not just in the mold, but with a down-to-earth elegance. And he listens to the client.”

Suzanne Stephens