The Steven S. Koblik Education and Visitor Center at The Huntington
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens opened the front portion of the new education and visitor center January 14, first to The Society of Fellows members and select members of the press, and later to the general public. In addition to the $68 million raised for the project, which broke ground April 2013, an additional $10 million was raised in endowment to fund future maintenance.
The project was officially named in June 2014 in honor of Huntington President Steven S. Koblik, and the architectural structures designed by Architectural Resources Group and the surrounding gardens and landscaping by the Office of Cheryl Barton. The scale of the project is large, and the challenge was to design a garden where buildings would feel like a natural part of the landscape. Instead of building one larger building, several smaller buildings were built and interlaced with walkways and loggias. Located in San Marino, just north-east of downtown Los Angeles, the temperate Mediterranean-like climate allows for outdoor walkways year round. As a matter of fact, the day I strolled through the gardens it was a crisp 65 degrees with clear blue sky.
Map of the Steven S. Koblik Education and Visitor Center, The Huntington
The Front Portion of the Steven S. Koblik Education and Visitor Center Opens to the Public
The front portion of the Steven S. Koblik Education and Visitor Center at the Huntington Library opened January 14 at noon, and I happened to be there 2 hours prior to opening to attend a press preview of the just-completed front portion as well as a hard-hat tour of the construction site that will open later this spring.
The newly opened front portion of the Steven S. Koblik Education and Visitor Center consists of an Entrance Façade, an Admissions and Membership building, a Coffee Shop, The Huntington Store, and the Avery and Andy Barth Family Grove.
The Entrance Façade
The Admissions and Membership Building and Coffee Shop
The Huntington Store
The Huntington Store boasts 5,000 square feet of retail space that caters to every visitor, young and old. There is a vast and varied selection of books, stationery, apparel, jewelry and home decor – all related to The Huntington’s extensive library, art, and botanical collections.
The vaulted sky-lit central area is bright and inviting, and brings the outdoors in. San Marino/Pasadena can be quite conservative and those who reside here tend to look to classical architecture and design for inspiration in their own homes. Because of this I was pleased to see that although the simplified lines may seem somewhat contemporary, the overall design is based on classical architecture and is in fact a modern interpretation of the Gothic cathedral. Similar to the layout of the Gothic cathedral, The Huntington Store houses a central nave, clerestory windows have been replaced with an overhead sky light, transepts (which in this case house each of the thematic rooms), and an ambulatory which showcases a collection of porcelain vases at the rear of the store. Brilliant interpretation, I’d say!
The whimsical, carved wooden tree that extends from floor to ceiling in the center of the children’s nook and recalls “The Giving Tree”, a children’s classic by Shel Silverstein, and will be a sure hit with the youngest visitors at The Huntington.
The Avery and Andy Barth Family Grove
A central courtyard is framed by a U-shaped loggia and connects the three newly opened buildings, much like in the manner of Myron Hunt, the architect of the original Huntington Beaux Art estate completed in 1911, which currently houses The Huntington Art Gallery on the property. I must say that I felt very at home in this courtyard, as it felt very familiar to me. I attended a school in town where the buildings were designed by Myron Hunt in 1907, and much like The Avery and Andy Barth Family Grove, there was (and still is) a central courtyard surrounded by a series of buildings all connected by outdoor, covered walkways. This central courtyard was also a central gathering place where students ate lunch, graduations were held, and people sat around between classes to absorb the warmth of the Southern California sun.
According to landscape architect Cheryl Barton, the concept of the gardens was “choreographed at a micro and macro scale simultaneously and is designed to be intuitive and move with the landscape and topography”.
When construction is complete, the view to Henry Huntington’s home (now the Art Gallery) will resemble the rendering above. Water will run through the colorful contemporary perennial garden, named the Celebration Garden Steve Rogers in memory of his wife Janet Rogers, and will serve as a place to pause and reflect before transitioning from the Education and Visitor Center at The Huntington to the different themed gardens and beyond to the historic core of the property.
The Cafe will offer a variety of food options, including a salad station, pasta station, and a feature station which will have a daily theme related to different areas in the garden. Think sushi, in reference to the Japanese Garden, or perhaps Southwestern cuisine, in reference to the Desert Garden.
The Stewart R. Smith Board Room
When completed, the Stewart R. Smith Board Room will seat 50 people around one central table. Two sources of daylight, via a wall of windows on one side and a skylight clerestory along the back wall, will balance the amount of light in the room and will provide the perfect amount of illumination for the mural that will fit into the space (now occupied by plywood in the photo above) above the white oak wainscoting. This mural, depicting a pastoral California landscape, was originally painted for the Fred H. and Bessie Ranke residence in the Hollywood Hills by celebrated California artist Millard Sheets in 1934, and is one of four major works of art donated to The Huntington that will be included in this project.
Below is the Millard Sheets mural shown in its original location before it was removed and restored.
The lobby of Rothenberg Hall will be the new home to Bicentennial Tapestries, a series of six tapestries by Alexander Calder and part of an edition of 200 produced by the Aubusson factory in France in 1975 to celebrate America’s bicentennial. Below is one of these six tapestries gifted to The Huntington by the Berman Bloch Family.
Rothenberg Hall is a state of the art auditorium and will host The Huntington’s program of lectures, conferences, and performances. The photo above shows the white oak panels which will line the walls of the 400-seat auditorium and is a subtle reference to the original white oak panels used in Henry Huntington’s residence and is also used in several other spaces throughout the visitor center.
The Rose Hills Foundation Garden Court
The 36 foot glass dome structure acts as the focal point of the visitor center, and at the four supporting corners will be a collection of palms and tropical plantings. This central area will act as an informal lobby for the lecture hall, multi-purpose room, and classrooms. What you do not see in these photos, but is a major portion of the project is the 46,000 square feet of underground storage that was added to house the Huntington’s growing collections of original historical research materials. This underground storage extends from the visitor center on the east and is connected to the Munger Research Center on the West via an underground tunnel. Waterproofing was of extreme importance because of the historical significance of the rare books, manuscripts, photographs and documents stored underground. Extreme precautions were made to ensure the safety of these invaluable treasures …and also to satisfy the insurers.
The June and Merle Banta Education Center
I didn’t quite catch a great shot of the courtyard which sits in the middle of the four educational classrooms, but I did catch everyone staring at something of great importance. That something is currently a blank wall, but will soon be the home of the Mutual Savings and Loan Mural, a ceramic mural measuring just over 8 by 12 feet that consists of thousands of hand-formed rectangles, all glazed in warm shades or red, by mid century, African-American ceramicist Doyle Lane.
The acquisition of this work couldn’t come at a more opportune appropriate time, as lately I have been seeing a renewed interest in mid century ceramic works in the world of art and interior design.
The fourth major work of art to be displayed the The Huntington is Jerusalem Stabile, by Alexander Calder. The bright, red metal sculpture, which measures 24 feet across, is on loan from the Calder Foundation, New York and will welcome visitors to The Huntington just to the west of the Admissions building beginning this spring.
The Steven S. Koblik Education and Visitor Center at The Huntington along with the four recently acquired works of art marks a pivotal point for The Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Gardens. I’ve always associated The Huntington with 17th century Italian sculpture and portrait paintings dating well before WWII, and most even earlier than that. Gainsborough’s Blue Boy and Thomas Lawrence’s Pinkie are usually what come to mind, especially having attended several field trips to The Huntington as a child. However, this is the first time that I have seen such a significant shift to more contemporary, post WWII art – and I’m liking it. A lot. A big kudos to The Huntington and those associated with the design of the Education and Visitor Center for bringing together the past with the present in a harmonious space for all to enjoy.