Saint Louis Art Museum unveils its David Chipperfield-designed extension

East Building of the St Louis Art Museum
The new David Chipperfield-designed East Building of the St Louis Art Museum is set to open on the 29 June.courtesy of Saint Louis Art Museum and Architectural Wall Systems
(Image credit: Jacob Sharp)

David Chipperfield (opens in new tab) has created a rectilinear new extension to the Saint Louis Art Museum (opens in new tab), housed in the city's leafy Forest Park. The British architect was drafted in after it became clear that the museum had outgrown its 'Main Building', designed by American architect Cass Gilbert in 1904. The new 'East Building', which offers additional exhibition and up-to-date facilities, has just been completed.

Chipperfield was selected as the scheme's architect in 2005. One of the project's primary aims was to solve the infrastructure crisis the museum suffered from with its original building. A second issue Chipperfield faced was the need to create a design that would be contemporary but sit well next to the existing structure, which has strong architectural merit in its own right. 'We thought, can the extension help redefine the original building?" says Chipperfield. A seamless circulation between the two wings - the old and the new - was another point for the architecture to address.

The new addition has its own front door, which leads straight to gallery space on the ground level, while an extensive parking area on the lower level doubled the museum's external visitor parking space - a big advantage towards increasing the museum's accessibility.

One of the East Building's most distinctive features is its coffered ceiling, made out of polished concrete. It helps provide natural light to the galleries, as well as public spaces.

Still, the East Building is not here to steal the show. 'This is not a new building', says Chipperfield. 'It is a building supporting an existing building'. The museum's excellent art collection also needed its place in the architectural dialogue. Adds museum director Brent R Benjamin: '[The museum] is built around the needs of the collection.'

With the building finished, the museum is now settling into its new space and installing its first exhibition there, entitled Postwar German Art in the Collection. Having increased its total gallery space by approximately 30%, the refreshed St Louis Art Museum will have its grand opening to the public on the 29 June. 

polished concrete addition at the heart of the city's Forest Park

The polished concrete addition sits at the heart of the city's Forest Park. courtesy of Saint Louis Art Museum and Architectural Wall Systems 

(Image credit: Jacob Sharp)

New building

The new building is directly linked to the museum's original 1904 Beaux Arts Main Building, courtesy of Saint Louis Art Museum and Architectural Wall Systems courtesy of Saint Louis Art Museum and Architectural Wall Systemscourtesy of Saint Louis Art Museum and Architectural Wall Systems

(Image credit: Jacob Sharp)

Art museum

Chipperfield has designed the structure around the needs of the museum's collection, courtesy of Saint Louis Art Museum courtesy of Saint Louis Art Museum courtesy of Saint Louis Art Museum 

(Image credit: Simon Menges,)

Most wanted men

The museum's permanent collection includes 'Most Wanted Men No. 12,

(Image credit: © 2013 Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / ARS, New York)

Art museum

'Number 3  

(Image credit: © The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY)

Red and orange art

'Red, Orange, Orange on Red'

(Image credit: © Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY)

'Betty'

'Betty' .by Gerhard Richter. 

(Image credit: © Gerhard Richter 2013)

'German National Library

'German National Library, Frankfurt am Main IV' by Candida Höfer. 

(Image credit: © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn)

'Library'

'Library'  

(Image credit: © Andreas Gursky / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn )

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).