Bainbridge Art Museum’s new look gets Design Review Board approval

After considering several months of community input, the Island Gateway developers have settled on the design of its “landmark” building.

There may be some tweaking as Bainbridge Art Museum design proposal goes through the city’s final permit process, but the city’s Design Review Board Tuesday approved the amended plans for the building’s exterior.

The city’s Planning Commission and Planning Director Kathy Cook will need to approve it before it’s finalized by the City Council.

Initially, developer Asani LLC presented an art museum in an undistinguished block building when it gained approval for the Gateway complex last year.

There was the caveat, however, that the final design of the two-story structure at the connective northwest corner of State Route 305 and Winslow Way was still a work in progress.

The museum’s board became more involved after the controversy and litigation surrounding the project ebbed following a tumultuous community meeting on the permitting process in February. And in late April, spurred by the board’s input, architect Matthew Coates’ public presentation of 10 “three-dimensional sketches” drew about 150 people to the existing building that will be replaced by the new museum sometime next year.

Coates said the original designs didn’t include enough community input, “so we threw them out and started over,” then chose elements from three of the 10 new ideas.

“It (the new design) was not designed by community members, but their efforts inspired and directed our energy in a certain direction,” Coates said. “Most of the input (from more than 200 people responding to the 10 options) favored a curved building. So we went that way. We think it will serve as a signature entryway into the island. This is the sort of building that will become an institution.”

Much of the curved, western exterior of the museum features a floor-to-ceiling, glass-and-wood wall that faces a large courtyard fronting Winslow Way, and a small connected structure that serves as the museum’s main entryway.

Perhaps the building design’s most dramatic element is a two-story, glass feature facing the State Route 305-Winslow Way corner, from which it is set back about 15 feet.

Coates believes the southeast-facing window will become “ a significant presence on the corner” and serve “as a metaphor for our community and the museum itself being open and transparent.”

Alan Grainger, a member of the Design Review Board, said he worried that reflection from the glass would be hazardous to drivers leaving the morning ferries. But Coates said the window would be tapered outward – from bottom to top – and shouldn’t be a problem.

The east side of the building will feature wood, rock and concrete elements, with several trees – mostly conifers – serving as a buffer between the building and the highway.

The board was pleased with the new design and approved it unaniomusly.

Board member John Green said the applicant had done a “tremendous amount of work” on the design changes.

“With the public forum and all the work done,” he said, “it shows the process works if given enough time. The silence from the public today shows it works.”

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