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New Gardner Museum Corridor Nears Completion

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Director Anne Hawley, in the nearly-completed corridor (Andrea Shea/WBUR)
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Director Anne Hawley, in the nearly-completed corridor (Andrea Shea/WBUR)

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum's $118 million expansion project will reach a symbolic milestone this week.

Amidst widespread construction, the glass-enclosed corridor linking Isabella Stewart Gardner's historic palace to the new 70,000-square-foot expansion is nearly complete.

Wearing both a hard hat and an elegant black dress, Museum Director Anne Hawley stood for a moment inside the transparent walkway as we took a quick tour of the messy work site. With an excited smile, she evoked architect Renzo Piano's metaphor for the connector. He likes to call it an "umbilical cord," because when the museum re-opens the old and new structures will constantly feed off one another as visitors and creative energy flow freely between them.

For now, though, construction workers move in and around the glass corridor attending to a host of projects — everything from landscaping prep to brick-laying. The guts of the new building are on display, but aesthetic elements are are also starting to be installed, including bright red ceiling lights in the new building's cafe. Some staff members are particularly excited about the way the Piano's fire escapes have turned out. And Hawley said the museum's geothermal wells are already cooling the new "green" building.

"We're trying very hard to make this a LEED-certified gold building and all of that is on track," she explained. "We've got water collectors...and it won't be too long before you start to see the gardens going in."

The museum is on schedule for its grand opening in January 2012, although it will be closed for nine weeks, starting Nov. 15. That's so Hawley and her staff can make sure everything is perfect for the expansion's long-awaited debut.

Earlier:

This program aired on August 9, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

Andrea Shea Twitter Senior Arts Reporter
Andrea Shea is WBUR's arts reporter.

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