Upgrade Coming for the Contemporary Austin

$3 million renovation coming for the museum's downtown home

The Contemporary Austin is raising the roof. Literally.

A new canopy over the popular open-air deck on top of the museum's Jones Center for Contemporary Art will be part of a $3 million renovation of the building in the coming year.

The Jones Center capped with its new canopy (Image by LTL Architects)

It may not seem all that long ago that the Jones Center received a complete redo from the New York firm of Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis, but next month will actually mark five years since that $6.6 million makeover was unveiled, and during that time the organization responsible for the renovation, Arthouse, merged with the Austin Museum of Art and the two became the Contemporary Austin. As the new organization redefined its mission and began booking exhibitions and events into the center at Seventh and Congress, it became aware of the need for improvements in the facility.

For instance, ever since the Jones Center reopened in 2010, the 5,500-square-foot rooftop has been a popular site for museum activities, including the Rooftop Architecture & Design Film Series and Good Taste events – indeed, it's been used more than anyone with the museum anticipated. Of course, the open-air deck's use has been subject to the suitability of the weather. The proposed canopy – sitting on structural supports a full 21 feet above the deck – along with increased weatherproofing and integrated systems to support the addition of fans and heaters, will allow the museum to schedule public programs whether the weather is hot, wet, or whatever. Thanks to a $1.3 million grant from the Moody Foundation of Galveston, the deck will be christened the Moody Rooftop.

Under the roof, the Contemporary is looking to expand its exhibition space from 5,100 square feet to 7,000 square feet, a feat it will accomplish largely by relocating staff offices – some to the upstairs of the Jones Center, some to the museum's Laguna Gloria site. And the Contemporary won't be simply making more room for art, it's making room for bigger art. Larger exterior access panels have already been installed, so sizable crates can be maneuvered into and out of the building more handily, and a large electric lift will be added so supersized artworks can more easily be moved between floors. And the museum's humidity controls are receiving an upgrade that will put them on par with those of major museums around the world.

Executive Director Louis Grachos has announced that LTL Architects will undertake the redo of the space that it redid several years ago. In a press release, firm partner Paul Lewis was quoted as saying, "I was thrilled when approached by Louis about rethinking the building. A change in mission necessitates revisions to the space. Our approach to the building, which has evolved over the past century from a theatre to a department store to a space for contemporary art, is to embrace that evolution as an essential attribute of the architecture." The project contractor is Zapalac Reed of Austin and project manager is Bob Newell of Austin's Nelsen Partners.

In addition to the Moody Foundation grant, pledges from members of the museum's Board of Trustees will help fund the project. The renovations are expected to take five to six months, with the Jones Center closing next May and reopening sometime in the fall. While the space at Seventh and Congress gets its makeover, exhibitions, events, and educational programs will continue at Laguna Gloria.

For more information, visit the Contemporary Austin website.

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The Contemporary Austin, Arthouse, Austin Museum of Art, Louis Grachos, LTL Architects, Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis

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