One tends to think of authors' museums as dowdy Victorian cottages with a lot of bric-a-brack laying about—the stuff of a writer's messy mind and varied inspiration. Not so for the museum of James Michener, author of historical epics—nearly fifty of them, with some 100 million copies sold. Michener's museum celebrates not his own work, but the arts of his native Pennsylvania, and it's set in a reconstituted prison in Bucks County, with dramatic walls of fieldstone.
While architectural talk in Pennsylvania has been justifiably centered on the new Barnes museum in Philly (about which more soon), the Michener Museum has also opened a new building in recent months, and it too is a wonder of boxy illumination. Designed by Kieran Timberlake, the museum's Putman Pavilion is a giant glass room, beautifully detailed, that makes for a striking counterpoint, visually and metaphorically, to those old prison walls. A tour-de-force of glass construction, the room is comprised of a curtain wall of 23-foot-tall glass penels, each nearly 6 feet wide and weighing 3,350 pounds. (They were installed using a custom-designed hoist that grabbed each panel with two dozen electronically triggered suction cups.)
Worth a detour, if you're in the vicinity. A few photos courtesy Michael Moran follow.