When Mystic Seaport engaged the services of Centerbrook Architects and Planners to design the new Thompson Exhibition Building, the architects were given a challenging mandate: They needed to come up with a design that would “stand out, but fit in.”
Centerbrook, a Connecticut firm with an impressive reputation in the academic and institutional field, set to work to distill the essence of the Museum and turn that into a powerful design that would express the identity of Mystic Seaport and inspire the visitor.
They had several primary goals:
- Position Mystic Seaport for the 21st century
- Appeal to a public accustomed to remarkable museums
- Create a new and memorable building
- Reinforce the new McGraw Gallery Quadrangle and the exhibition spaces that surround it
- Evoke the Museum of America and the Sea
- Celebrate wooden ships
The 14,000 square-foot building houses a 5,000 square-foot exhibition hall, the Collins Gallery, the Pilalas Family Reception Lobby, the Masin Conference Room, a retail shop, visitor amenities, space for exhibition loading, and mechanical rooms.
It was also important that the building reflect contemporary design to differentiate it from its historic surroundings. As new construction, the structure has to clearly articulate that newness and respect the authenticity of the historic building in other parts of the grounds.
To meet these goals, the architects sought inspiration from the geometry of the sea.
Click on the image at the top of the page for a slideshow that illustrates the design process.