BIG Winner: Kimball Art Center Selects Bjarke Ingels for Renovation and Expansion Project

There are many ways to while away the hours between screenings at the Sundance Film Festival: skiing, shopping for ponchos, stalking Robert Redford, donning the aforementioned poncho (four-ply cashmere, vaguely Navajo-inspired) to crash the nearest “celebrity gifting suite.” But this year’s festival offered a new pastime: inspecting models and designs of the buildings proposed for Park City’s Kimball Art Center. Festivalgoers (and anyone visiting the non-profit arts center last month) were invited to weigh in on the five finalists in the design competition for its renovation and expansion project: submissions by BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group, Brooks + Scarpa Architects, Sparano + Mooney Architecture, Will Bruder + Partners Ltd., and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects.

No word as to whether the jury was swayed by the results of the feedback it solicited, but the winner is BIG. The New York- and Copenhagen-based firm proposed “what is in essence a highly evolved log cabin.” BIG envisions a new Kimball Art Center made of massive stacked timber elements (reclaimed from train track piles from the Great Salt Lake) that enclose a spiral staircase, exhibition spaces, and a restaurant, all topped by a terrace. For the historic Kimball Art Center building, located directly adjacent to the new one, BIG proposed that it be renovated into an educational hub with a rooftop sculpture garden. Inspired by the “raw charm of Park City and the Kimball Art Center,” Ingels says that he sought to continue the town’s tradition of repurposing old industrial buildings for cultural purposes. His firm’s winning proposal looks to the construction technique of the old mines and salavaged railroad trestles “to create a raw spacious framework for the art and artists of Park City—a traditional material and technique deployed to produce a highly contemporary expression.” The project is expected to begin in mid-2013 and be completed in mid-2015.