A recent visit to The Gardner Museum in Boston solidified my belief that a contemporary addition to a historic or traditional building can be successful both in homage to the existing building and in expanding for the future. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum opened it’s doors on New Years’ Night 1903, and presented a new context for art in America by creating a museum where visitors experienced music, the beauty of gardens, and historic and contemporary art, all in the highly personal setting of Gardner’s courtyard palace. The original building was designed to emulate a 15th century Venetian palace containing a large courtyard which is now covered with glass and is one of the highlights of the visit. The garden design is changed throughout the seasons and a program element in the new additon was a greenhouse to house varied species of plants. I would certainly list the courtyard as one of the best spaces in Boston I’ve visited due to it’s delicate details and tall comfortable proportions – certainly a must see. Renzo Piano’s addition sits quietly beside the palace and connects with a glass enclosed walkway. Elements of Piano’s past projects, such as the glass box, copper siding and beautifully fabricated details show themselves, but in a more intimate scale. Reinforcing the Gardner’s program, Piano designed an inviting “residential” living room complete with floating shelves full of books, couches and hanging pendant lights; a couple of caged birds fill the air with their bird songs activating the atmosphere. Two spatial surprises are found on the second floor of the new addition – a exhibit space and concert hall – both having similar volumes of a cube. After the visit, it became increasing clear that an addition in any other language would have detracted from the original. A copy of the existing building would have diluted the original, whereas the glass box sitting next door, makes the palace even more special. An interesting note I found during my research – if you share the name Isabella, you always get free admission!