In November 2005 issue of “Architectural Record” magazine, the magazine featured Hunter Museum’s iconic addition by Randall Stout Architects. The Museum’s surface design includes curvilinear stainless steel forms by Zahner, as well as a never-before-seen custom patina on zinc by Zahner that has quickly become known as “the hunter patina.”
The Arch Record article by Clifford A. Pearson describes the decision by the Hunter Museum to expand, and how Stout’s transformative vision gave the Museum a prominent outlook over the Tennessee river below.
After nearly 50 years of splendid isolation on the bluffs overlooking the Tennessee River, the Hunter Museum decided to reach out to the city beyond its gates. So in 2002, it announced a major expansion that would not only provide 30,000 extra square feet for galleries and special functions, but connect the venerable institution to Chattanooga’s redeveloped waterfront and its resurgent downtown. “We wanted to take the Hunter off the hill,” states Rob Kret, the museum’s director since 2000. In April 2005, a bigger, splashier, and more accessible Hunter, designed by Los Angeles–based Randall Stout, FAIA, opened its doors—literally and figuratively—to a public that included many people who never felt welcomed before.
In the 1970s, the museum had built a Brutalist concrete wing to the east of the mansion and moved its main entrance there. So some people figured the museum would continue expanding in that direction. But Stout proposed adding the new structure to the west, shifting the museum’s focus toward downtown and creating an ensemble of buildings with the mansion at its center. Like a chess player’s first move, the siting of the new 20,000-square-foot building helped shape a long series of decisions affecting everything from the layout of galleries in the existing museum to the location of the loading dock and art storage.
But the chess game didn’t stop there. Randall Stout’s office originally proposed that the Hunter Museum’s cantilevered design would be created using a limestone crafted from local quarries. Due to the growing structural steel costs for its design, the weight of the limestone panels were unfeasible, and the entire design team began brainstorming different solutions.
Zahner’s solution was to look at the custom patinas developed by the CEO/President in research for his books on architecture. Zahner presented a custom patina process on zinc to emulate the variegated color of the stone, fabricating the zinc panels and shingles to match the shape of the limestone panels that were originally planned. The architects loved it, and continued its surface throughout the museum’s interior walls, ceilings, soffits, and various forms.