BIG's second Kimball Art Center proposal rejected by city planners

News: the second proposal from Danish architecture firm BIG to extend the Kimball Art Center in Park City, Utah, has been thrown out by planning authorities for failing to meet strict local preservation guidelines.

Following a city hall meeting held last week, council members have ruled that the new concrete structure proposed by Bjarke Ingels' firm for the former mining town does not conform to the Old Town planning guidelines.

Kimball Art Center by BIG
BIG's latest Kimball Art Center proposal

The existing Kimball Art Center has been a local landmark in the town since 1976, but the non-profit organisation wants to double the size of its existing premises with a new building at the intersection of Main Street and Heber Avenue.

BIG's competition-winning first proposal – a wooden structure built from railway sleepers – never made it to City Hall. It was dropped early on, after being widely criticised by locals for being out of character with the historic setting.

The latest design, which features a more streamlined concrete form, was understood to have been more popular based on a vote that indicated two thirds of the public were in favour.

Kimball Art Center by BIG
The interior of BIG's latest Kimball Art Center proposal

However, a notice signed by city preservation planner Anya Grant and planning director Thomas Eddington confirmed that the planning application has been rejected.

Eddington told local newspaper Park Record that the expansion did not relate to the historic Kimball Art Center building "aesthetically, visually or historically."

He also claimed the proposal would not be compatible with the historic streetscape, but maintained that a solution could be achieved on this site.

"There was a lot of effort put into this building," Eddington said. "Everyone wants for the Kimball to be in this location."

Kimball Art Center by BIG
BIG's original Kimball Art Center proposal, built from railway sleepers

The arts organisation has ten days to appeal the decision – a window that ends on 2 September.

"Our board of directors is surprised and disappointed with the city's decision, but we will move forward with evaluating the most viable options for keeping art thriving in and around Park City," said Kimball director Robin Marrouche.

"This outcome is not what we had hoped for, but we respect the process, and we will take time to determine our next steps."

The Kimball Art Center by BIG
BIG's latest Kimball Art Center proposal viewed from Main Street

Park City's government has strictly regulated buildings along Main Street for years, in an attempt to preserve the architectural character of the mining-era town.

BIG's design, with concrete walls cast against wooden formwork to create the look of a log cabin, was described by the firm as being "like the lovechild of the present day volumes of the existing Kimball's modern day architecture and the sloping roofs of the classic mountain chalets".

It was intended to provide 1,400 square metres of additional exhibition space.

BIG declined to comment when contacted by Dezeen.