Newswise — The world's first museum and international center dedicated to the study, preservation and display of quilts at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will be designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York.

Robert A.M. Stern revealed his firm's winning design for the museum and academic home for UNL's International Quilt Study Center April 13. The university hopes to break ground next spring on the privately funded $10.5 million project at the edge of East Campus, with an opening planned for fall 2007.

At the design unveiling, Stern displayed a three-dimensional model and artist's renderings of the three-story, 30,000-square-foot building. Faced with limestone, the building features a bowed facade of glass panels 'stitched together' to create a large-scale pattern. The new facility will contain public galleries and meeting spaces, work areas dedicated to research, and climate-controlled storage areas for the center's world-class collection.

"We worked hard to meet the functional requirements to create a building that will enhance the center's mission and advance the purposes of the university," Stern said. "Our design provides a dramatic setting for the study and display of quilts and a signature gateway to the university's East Campus."

As in a quilt, explained Stern, the building is organized in three layers. The outer layers, comprising the public spaces on the east and office spaces on the west, work together to wrap and protect the innermost layer, the quilt storage and gallery areas.

The sequence for visitors is carefully orchestrated inside. A curved stepped ramp runs the length of the east facade, gently leading visitors to the dramatically shaped second floor reception hall, a grand, light-filled space overlooking the landscaped courtyard and the East Campus beyond, while providing access to the three interconnected galleries.

UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman likened the new building to other significant architecture on campus, including the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery designed by Phillip Johnson. "The Sheldon is among the most important architectural gems in the region, and the quilt center and museum promises to continue the tradition of placing architecturally important buildings on university campuses to house meaningful programs," he said.

Stern's group was one of three companies asked to submit designs for the project. The design competition was conducted under the auspices of the University of Nebraska Foundation and was made possible by a gift from the Robert and Ardis James Foundation of Chappaqua, N.Y., which is also a major contributor to the building fund.

Terry Fairfield, NU Foundation president and chief executive officer, said gifts and commitments have been received for half the project.

The International Quilt Study Center was founded in 1997 when Ardis and Robert James donated their collection of nearly 950 quilts to the university. It has since become the most important quilt collection in existence and the largest public collection of its kind. It currently holds more than 1,700 quilts and four major collections last valued between $8 million and $9 million, said Patricia Crews, quilt center director.

The International Quilt Study Center holds one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of quilts in the world. The collection includes the Ardis and Robert James Collection of antique and contemporary studio art quilts, the Cargo Collection of African American Quilts, and the Jonathan Holstein Collection, which includes the seminal Whitney Collection and an unparalleled group of Pennsylvania Amish quilts.

A graduate program in textile history with an emphasis in quilt studies also was created. It is the only program of its kind.

"Our program is unique," said Crews. "We encourage important quilt scholarship and nurture the appreciation of quilts as an art form while helping to reveal their cultural history. Our interdisciplinary program encourages the study and appreciation of quilts both as aesthetic objects and as cultural artifacts, celebrating their beauty and importance to social and economic history."

The center is currently located on the second floor of the Home Economics Building on UNL's East Campus. The space was converted for the collection in 1997, but no gallery or dedicated work areas were prepared at that time. Other galleries on campus are used to rotate exhibits, and classrooms are used for routine care and conservation of the collection.

In addition to providing improved exhibition space, the new building will increase accessibility to the quilts for scholars, students and the general public. Even though space is tight, nearly 1,000 people visit the center each year. Another 10,000 people annually have visited quilt exhibitions held elsewhere on UNL's campus, a figure Crews expects will more than double after the opening of the new facility.

Robert A.M. Stern Architects selected Alley Poyner Architecture of Omaha as its associate architect. The university will begin accepting construction bids this fall and plans construction in 2006.

According to the NU Foundation, a call for entries to design the one-of-a-kind facility drew interest from 117 architects from around the world. After reviewing proposals from 37 firms, three finalists were selected to compete for the project. The two other finalists were Kisho Kurokawa Architects & Associates of Tokyo and Studio Daniel Libeskind of New York City.

The search was managed by a committee comprised of individuals from NU Central Administration, UNL facilities management, UNL faculty and staff, NU Foundation and the dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of New Mexico who was competition consultant.

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