Projects   Project Portfolio – November 2005
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Figge Art Museum

Davenport, Iowa
David Chipperfield Architects

David Chipperfield’s luminous glass structure brings a clarity and rigor to the new Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa

By Suzanne Stephens

  Photo © Timothy Hursley

The road to transforming the city-owned Davenport Museum of Art into the privately run Figge Art Museum was long and bumpy. But it resulted in a taut, gleaming glass, 100,000-square-foot structure rising serenely above the banks of the Mississippi in this small Iowa city west of Chicago. Although the museum leaders sought a structure that would be a magnet for downtown Davenport’s revival, they weren’t looking for an architectural extravaganza. As Thomas Figge, a prominent banker who engineered the contribution of $13 million from the V.O. Figge and Elizabeth Kahl Figge Charitable Foundation for the $46.9 million project, explains, the museum sought an architectural expression that would be “timeless and classic.” The paradigm was nearby––Eero Saarinen’s still-stunning Cor-Ten-steel Deere and Company Headquarters (1962) in Moline, Illinois.

Adding to the complexity of the task was the desire to attract the tourists and residents of the Quad City area (Davenport, Bettendorf, Iowa; plus Moline and Rock Island, Illinois) to a museum with a collection of American regional, Haitian, European, and Mexican colonial art that could not be called a compelling draw. So the museum expanded its program to offer special exhibition space (7,200 square feet on two floors), art studios, a 140-seat auditorium, and a shop and restaurant.

A design that was timeless, would attract droves of visitors, and spark up the downtown of a city of 100,000 sounds ambitious. On top of that loomed decisions about the site and how to pay for the whole thing. Founded in 1925, the Davenport Museum of Art had been most recently housed in a chunky, Brutalist concrete building removed from the downtown area. After some intense negotiating, Figge got 2.2 acres for the museum along the river, in an area where 19th-century Romanesque Revival and Italianate brick commercial buildings alternate with parking lots. To get more money (besides the Figge Foundation’s contribution and those of other private donors), the museum went after $19.9 million in public financing from Vision Iowa, a state program for cultural and educational development, and from city funds available from River Renaissance, Davenport’s initiative for jump-starting downtown projects.

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the People

Davenport Museum of Art

David Chipperfield Architects

Project Team:
Johannes Baumstark, Franz Borho, David Chipperfield, Jochen Glemser, Isabelle Heide, Victoria Jessen-Pike, Reto Liechti, Laurent Masmonteil, Viola Simoncioni, Jennifer Singer, Hau Ming Tse, Patrick Uberbacher, Reiko Yamasaki

Architect of Record
Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck Architecture

Principles in Charge:
Cal Lewis, FAIA & Kirk Blunck, FAIA

Project Manager:
Doug Frey, AIA

Project Architect:
Jill Anderson, AIA & Cheung Chan, AIA

Specifications Writer:
Mark Schmidt, AIA CSI CCS

Project Designer:
Tom Hilton, AIA, Jonathan Sloan, AIA, LEED AP, Tom Trapp, Evan Shaw, Jeff Wagner, Greg Smith, Carey Nagle

Landscape Architect:
Zach Heitzman

- Jane Wernick Associates
- Charles A. Saul Engineering (Structural Engineer of Record)

Services Engineer:

Construction Manager
Russell/Pepper Joint Venture

Matthew Marchbank
David Chipperfield Architects

Timothy Hursley
(501) 372-0640

Christian Richters
Christian Richters Fotograf
Zumsandestrasse 23
D-48145 Munster, Germany
Tel: 49 251 277447
Fax: 49 251 27438

Don Retherford

Model Photographs:
Richard Davies

the Products

Exterior cladding
Metal/glass curtainwall:
Custom, Design by W.J. Higgins & Associates,; Contractor: Architectural Wall Systems

Treiber Construction Company

Old Castle Glass

Unicel Architectural

Insulated-panel or plastic glazing:
Old Castle Glass

Metal doors:
Curries Contractor Doors Inc, Davenport

Upswinging doors, other:
Schweiss Bi-Fold Doors

Interior finishes
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork:
Calmar Manufacturing Co.

Paints and stains:
Iowa Paint, no stain on wood floor, finished with OSMO Color Hardwax Oil

Wood floor:
Bembé Parkett

Bentley Prince Street

Office furniture:

Fixed seating:
Poltrona Frau


Task lighting:



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