Architects Release Bowers Museum Renovation Plan


Bissell Architects of Newport Beach has released preliminary drawings for a $6-million addition to the 53-year-old Bowers Museum.

The design--which adds 51,672 square feet to the museum, increasing its size threefold--retains the historic facade of the museum. The additions will be tucked into the rear of the site and finished with the same stucco and tile materials as the original building.

“We want to preserve the old museum as a Santa Ana landmark,” project architect John Jones said. “The new structure will basically be a backdrop for the old building.”

A new west wing will house collection storage and second-floor administrative offices. A north wing will contain an interior “street” or galleria linking the enlarged galleries with the enlarged multipurpose room, enlarged museum shop and new restaurant.


This walkway will be paved with the same materials to be used in the renovated courtyard--stone or tile, or scored concrete if the budget won’t permit the costlier materials.

The project also involves demolition of the 1974 addition to the building and restoration of the second floor of the original building, which will become additional gallery space.

The new 11,522-square-foot gallery will double existing exhibition space.

Asked if the interior “street” was meant to echo a similar feature in Renzo Piano’s design for Newport Harbor Art Museum’s new building, Jones demurred, calling the idea simply a “buzzword” in museum architecture circles.


Museum board of governors president Arthur V. Strock called the expansion “a delicate mixing of the old and the new” and “an attempt to be fiscally responsible, making good use of land resources and land dollars.”

He said he believed the design will result in “an efficient museum that is not, in and of itself, the most prominent part of its collection,” but rather “a supportive container” for the museum’s 80,000 objects.

The Santa Ana City Council approved the Newport Beach firm’s design on Monday, three months after the city’s Redevelopment Agency awarded the contract to Bissell. Site-plan review by various city departments begins next week. Ground-breaking is scheduled for spring 1990, and the renovated museum is due to reopen in spring 1991.

The design replaces an earlier, more sprawling scheme commissioned two years ago from Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates of New York. It was scrapped when the museum’s board of governors proposed building a mixed-use structure on the site to generate income for the museum. The current plan allows for preservation of one acre of the site for possible future development.