The Kimball Art Centre
by BIG


Slideshow: architects BIG have won a competition to renovate and extend an art centre in Utah with proposals that will be built from railway sleepers reclaimed from the Great Salt Lake.

Kimball Art Center by BIG

The new five-storey-high wing of the Kimball Art Centre will provide exhibition galleries both at basement level and upstairs, connected to each another and to a restaurant between by a winding staircase.

Kimball Art Center by BIG

A rooftop terrace will overlook the existing building, which the architects intend to convert into an educational centre.

Kimball Art Center by BIG

Visitors will enter both buildings though a double-height reception lobby where openings will provide peeping views to the galleries below.

Kimball Art Center by BIG

The project is due to start on site next year, for completion in 2015.

Kimball Art Center by BIG

BIG won the competition ahead of four other shortlisted firms – you can see the proposals of Californian architects Brooks + Scarpa here.

Kimball Art Center by BIG

Here's a statement from the Kimball Art Centre:

Kimball Art Center Announces BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group as the Winner of Architectural Design Competition for Its Renovation and Expansion

Kimball Art Center by BIG

BIG’s Design for Kimball Art Center Projected for Completion by Mid-2015

Kimball Art Center by BIG

Park City, UT—The Kimball Art Center announces that BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group (New York, NY, and Copenhagen, Denmark) has been selected by a jury as the winning firm in its architectural design competition for its renovation and expansion project. The project comprises an interior renovation of the existing Kimball Art Center (KAC), located on the corner of Park Avenue and Main Street in Park City, Utah, and the construction of a new building directly adjacent to the original. This phased project is expected to begin in mid-2013, and be completed in mid-2015.

Kimball Art Center by BIG

BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group proposed a new Kimball Art Center made of massive stacked timber elements reclaimed from train track piles from the Great Salt Lake—just one of many green solutions in the innovative plan—enclosing a spiral staircase, exhibition spaces, a restaurant, and topped by a terrace.

Kimball Art Center by BIG

For the historic Kimball Art Center building, BIG proposed that it be renovated into an educational hub with a rooftop sculpture garden. BIG will partner with local firm, Architectural Nexus (Salt Lake City, UT), which has a proven record of designing and building in mountain areas similar to that of Park City. Other local consultants include Dunn Associates, Van Boerum & Frank Associates, Envision Engineering, and Big D Construction.

Kimball Art Center by BIG

In addition to BIG, the five finalists in the competition included Brooks + Scarpa Architects (Los Angeles, CA), Sparano + Mooney Architecture (Salt Lake City, UT), Will Bruder + Partners Ltd. (Phoenix, AZ), and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects (New York, NY).

Kimball Art Center by BIG

Robin Marrouche, Executive Director, Kimball Art Center, explains, “BIG built the strongest case for the continuity of Park City’s history—a bold, poetic new landmark to resurrect the spirit of the Coalition Mine Building that burned down in the 1980s. The design concept supports our mission to present engaging exhibitions, education, and events, and enhances the natural flow between the three in a uniquely free-form way. As the Kimball Art Center expands in scope and reputation, embracing both the local community and a growing group of international visitors and art collectors, BIG’s design sets a course for the future.”

Kimball Art Center by BIG

BIG Founder & Partner Bjarke Ingels, comments, “The raw charm of Park City and the Kimball Art Center is rooted in a culture of appropriating the structures of past industry to accommodate spaces for cultural life and leisure. With our design for the new Kimball Art Center, we seek to continue this tradition by using the construction technique of the old mines and the railroad trestles that have marinated for decades in the Great Salt Lake 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.”

Kimball Art Center by BIG

The determination of the winning architect by the jury involved a rigorous evaluation of the designs, including how the architect would partner with the Kimball Art Center in moving the project to reality. Explains jury member Maurice Cox, “It was hard for the jury to choose between the five excellent finalists. BIG won the competition by proposing an iconic building that honors the spirit of Park City’s past and looks ahead into the 21st century. BIG’s design boldly reinterprets the Kimball Art Center’s place in the city skyline with this amazing new structure for the arts."

Kimball Art Center by BIG

Existing Kimball Art Center

In addition to the jury vote, visitors to the Kimball Art Center—including those who recently attended the two-week Sundance Film Festival in January—were invited to look at models and designs of the five proposed buildings, and weigh in on their favorites via an online poll at, where links to the Facebook and Twitter discussion pages are accessible. Comments could also be sent to, or tweeted with hashtag #kimballtransformationproject. These comments were shared with the jury.

Kimball Art Center by BIG

Two new galleries

Don Stastny, Competition Advisor, comments, “The Kimball Art Center and Park City have begun a great journey together, one that has engaged both the local community and its many visitors through a thoughtful process that was transparent and interactive. The New Kimball will invite exploration, reward discovery, and deliver inspiration.”

Kimball Art Center by BIG

Street gallery

Details of BIG’s Design:

The building footprint and lower gallery face Main Street and the city grid, and as the building rises, it turns to greet visitors entering the city via Heber Ave. It will be an iconic yet contextual building at the city’s doorstep. Referencing Park City’s mining heritage, the façade of the building is constructed of massive stacked timber elements.

Kimball Art Center by BIG

Sky gallery

The twisting façade encloses a continuous spiral staircase that leads visitors from the ground floor to the roof terrace. In between two galleries is a restaurant, which spills out onto a sculpture garden on the rooftop of the existing, historic Kimball Art Center building. That building is converted into an educational hub. At its heart is a flexible, double-height auditorium. The roof of the existing building is equipped with solar thermal panels concealed by indigenous plants. An outdoor sculpture garden loops around the perimeter of the roof.

Kimball Art Center by BIG

Unified twist

The new Kimball Art Center takes advantage of Park City’s climate, with an objective to meet a LEED platinum rating by harnessing sources of natural heat, using natural daylight, maximizing ventilation, and recycling rainwater. Generous skylights and large ribbon windows flood the building with diffused natural light, greatly reducing energy costs for lighting.

Kimball Art Center by BIG


Operable skylights trigger natural stack ventilation. A ground-coupled heat exchanger is drilled deep into the ground in non-built areas. The heat pumps either extract heat from the circulating water (heating mode) in the winter, or reject heat (cooling mode) in the summer.

  • Klaus

    What an invention here!
    Those concepts are the same every time and this project looks so good just because made the renderings..
    Why is this poetic? just because it's made of wood? and It's an Icon just because it is completely out of the context and it's 2/3 floors higher that every other building around?
    come on….

    • hater

      Why is BIG the only firm that's not allowed to repeat an unbuilt design?

      btw, MIR did not do the renderings. lol you comment on shit you don't know …

      • jordanjlloyd

        It would appear however, they have done several images for BIG, so it's a fairly reasonable assumption to make.

      • Joe

        Does it matter who does the sexy renderings? The point is that the dramatic image is great tool to sell an object / project; but does tend to blind most people to obvious failings / shortcomings of the design. one oversight is the street frontage. look at the model. entire elevations on the pedestrian level are blank and unresolved. next could be scale, pedestrian and context. What is the wood really ? box beams like gehry did for the serpentine? laminated rail ties… the list could continue, but does it matter? this competition has been marketed heavy since its beginning, i doubt that BIG won through design, rigor. The design/BIG is very marketable and that in our current consumptive climate of "all things designed" that makes it the most "valuable". I apologize for making the discussion so reductive but it seems thats what our architecture has become, and sadder still that is what it seems we want…

        • jordanjlloyd

          Clearly, it matters to some. Personally, I'm a little deflated by this scheme considering BIG have some really excellent projects like Loop City. Still, I would have Bjarke's brand of architecture any day over Zaha/Liebskind

  • OPA

    this is what they call hedonostic sustainability? timbers from brasil?
    fail in this scale!

  • H-J

    Where's the plunge pool?

  • Michael

    Reclaimed railway sleepers are the most toxic wood you can imagine. Highly polluted and impregnated so they would not rot. Good luck making a healthy building with that.

    • H-J

      Exactly, 2012 Architects from Rotterdam had the same idea once to use railway sleepers for a villa but they had to switch to cable reels because of the toxicity a.o. Turned out just fine though:

    • SLC

      I attended his presentation in Park City and according to that they are timber piles harvested from the great salt lake – called trestlewood – which has been strengthened from 'marinating' in the salty mud for decades.

  • Re-claimed railway sleepers, creosote and art conservation: discuss

    • Karl Metz

      I was thinking the same thing. The grease and the creosote impregnated into the lumber may make it very difficult to seal and there could also be asbestos and lead in there as well.

  • qhs

    postmodern log cabin. not a compliment.

  • GJDK

    Everyone loves to hate, but BIG are consistently innovative in their approach. Postmodern log cabin or not, I haven't seen many recent buildings that use timber in such an interesting way. Nice.

  • woah

  • Eric B

    I'm with Klaus on this one. Sorry hater (BIGtern), but this is getting out of hand. Hats off to never losing a competition, he must pour on that Danish "charm" in those the presentation. To be fair, he does have a couple of nice projects, the Danish Pav comes to mind, but this ain't one of them. Twisting contoured forms are becoming exhusted ou of the BIG factory. Is there any real intellectual rhetoric here? Simple graphical explanations and moody renderings seem to be the shallow depth of this formal archicitecture. Is it a giant leap from plopping Bilbaos all over the place a couple of years ago?

    • Waiter

      "Hats off to never losing a competition."
      BIG have lost projects. The blogs rarely acknowledge or advertize it when they lose of course. BIG lost to Michael Maltzan on the St Pete Pier Competition. Also BIG lost last year to Freecell on the Times Square Alliance competition. For some reason TSA didn't hold a competition this year and simply chose BIG's losing proposal, BIG♥NYC, this time around. BIG wins even when they place runner up.
      As for the Kimball Art Center, the lead designer is Leon Rost, who also led the design for the competition of The Mosque and Museum of Religious Harmony, which was in 2010.
      You can clearly see Rost enjoys using the same shapes and forms for the BIG design proposals. Surprised Bjarke lets him get away with it. I guess if it's not broken, why fix it.

  • Nice spaces, and beautiful simplicity, great to see reclamation in higher profile projects. I don't get why BIG is expected to reinvent themselves. The architecture community may be getting bored, but how about people who will never know BIG designed this and will actually use this building, what's to say they won't enjoy these beautiful spaces and urban form? Isn't that who these projects are about?

  • I guess some Dreams do come true! Congrats and Kudos go out to BIG on their Winning Bid! I know I voted and commented hard for this one! Reclaimed Trestlewood + Historical Railroad Past = Assigned Historical Landmark Number? Happy Valentine's Day Mr. Bjarke Ingels! :-)

  • designer

    we've seen the concept but exceptionally nice atmospheric photoshopping.

  • jerry

    is that a contemplative mies in the office??

  • mmmm

    very beautiful renderings, but the project is not so good as usual.

  • steef

    Wow, apparently I'm the only one to bemoan the quality of the renders. They look in-house. Very dodgy blur effects and some weird shadow/light/reflection issues on several. I mean, the dude, with the desk and the chair? What is that all about; is the desk floating on melting ice? These renders don't look like the usual Luxigon, Labtop quality…

  • aardvark

    This is very disappointing.

    Can’t this profession start focusing on the depth of a building’s ideas a bit more and less focused on rank cinematic effect?

    Intended or no: a huge sense of NORDIC maritime architecture. Is this really legitimately relevant to Rocky Mountain, Park City, Utah?

    • The Fab

      "Nordic maritime architecture"?!? WTF is that?

  • oli.fort

    Everytime the same thing, same "great concept sketches". It's like arhitecture made for dummies, "look, it's easy we just the building like this .."

  • Shee

    Reminds me with transformer!

  • Fabio

    Wow. No one knows that railway sleepers are potential carcinogenic?

  • Antonio

    I don't know what's worse; Bjarke Ingels regurgitating the same idea or the people criticizing the quality of the otherwise good renders.

    Sexy shapes, cool hunting, bland and sterile contemporary spaces…

    This profession has turned into a cesspool of art fags, and that's the truth.