Major expansion of Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art completed at Utah State University

  • LOGAN, Utah
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  • November 08, 2018

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Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art. 2018 building renovation and expansion. Upper floor galleries. Photography by Jeremy Bittermann.

November 8, 2018



Transformed cultural facility is a dynamic hub for engagement with modern and contemporary art of the American West

Logan, UT…The newly expanded Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art (NEHMA) designed by Sparano + Mooney Architecture (SMA) opened in September 2018 at Utah State University (USU) in Logan, Utah. NEHMA has completed a comprehensive $5-million renovation and expansion that has transformed the visitor experience of both the Museum and its significant collection with an emphasis on art of the American West. The project began in 2017 with the renovation of NEHMA’s 1982 Edward Larrabee Barnes-designed building, followed by a 9,000-square-foot addition bringing the Museum’s total building enclosure to 29,000 square feet. The project—which includes a new building entrance and lobby addition; a new gallery; an Object Study Center; a video/film/lecture space; additional and renovated collection storage and offices—has enabled the Museum to better organize its existing facilities, increase its exhibition space, offer new amenities, and further develop its education programming for both the USU community and the public at large.

Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art. 2018 building renovation and expansion. Exterior at dusk. Photography by Jeremy Bittermann.

SMA principal John Sparano, FAIA, and project architect Seth Striefel, RA, worked in close collaboration with NEHMA’s leadership, including NEHMA Executive Director and Chief Curator Katie Lee-Koven and Utah State University Office of Facilities to realize the vision for the building’s full, multidisciplinary program.

Lee-Koven said, “The Museum expansion now enables us to better showcase our collection of over 5,000 works of American art from west of the Mississippi through both exhibitions, such as the current show Collecting on the Edge (through May 4, 2019), and the addition of our new Object Study Center. The Center provides accessible collection storage for researchers and expanded storage facilities to enable the collection to grow over time. It cements NEHMA’s position as one of the top modern and contemporary art centers in the region and allows us to extend our programming to USU students, residents, and visitors to Utah.”

NEHMA is adjacent to USU’s Fine Arts Center (FAC) and its new exterior, entrance, and lobby improve the Museum’s visibility for both on- and off-campus visitors by shifting the main entry to be more externally facing. The new entrance creates a strong visual connection to the landmark Russell/Wanlass Performance Hall and provides visibility from the primary parking areas, as well as the main pedestrian circulation through campus.

Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art. 2018 building renovation and expansion. Main entrance. Photography by Jeremy Bittermann.

The zinc cladding on the new facade matches that of the Performance Hall and was selected for its long life-span, limited maintenance requirements, and the visible changing of the color over time through oxidation. Perforated zinc panels at the entrance protect the lobby from the sun in the daytime while allowing for full visibility of the space at night.

SMA’s Sparano said, “This addition has a major impact on the existing Museum as it provides an intelligible entry sequence and completes the gallery circulation loop, allowing a more choreographed and engaging experience with the art on view.”

The Museum’s renovated main floor includes a café called Noni’s (Nora’s nickname) operated by USU Dining Services and a shop featuring ceramics by USU alumnae, jewelry by Utah craftspeople, catalogues, and memorabilia. The Object Study Center, located in the former lobby, includes a modestly scaled library as well as meeting space for small student classes and discussions. Visible storage drawers provide curated access to highlights of the Museum’s collection.

The new gallery in the second level addition features state-of-the-art climate control and allows the Museum to present collection material and loans that could not be accommodated previously. The gallery also includes LED lighting technology and controls. Transitions between the new and existing galleries and the addition of a lobby staircase provide visitors with a continuous processional circulation loop through all the galleries. The revised layout of NEHMA’s existing upper gallery also provides a designated space for showing video and film and for hosting lectures and public programs.

The expansion also enables more storage to accommodate the existing collection and future acquisitions while also increasing the efficiency of the existing space through consolidation and reorganization. A new open-office design offers staff a collaborative working environment, access to daylight, and closer proximity to the Museum director’s office and primary building functions.

The entire Museum received a triple-glazed curtain wall system, resolving NEHMA’s previous moisture and condensation issues, increased the efficiency of the building enclosure, and reduced the required mechanical heating and cooling loads. Furthermore, the level of transparency of the glazing fundamentally changes the experience of the Museum. The glazing in the gallery areas includes an acid-etched inner layer which internalizes the focus of the space with a more opaque finish, while the clear glazing in the lobby spaces promotes visibility from the interior and exterior.

About Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art

The Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art (NEHMA) is dedicated to collecting and exhibiting modern and contemporary visual art to promote dialogue about ideas fundamental to contemporary society. NEHMA provides meaningful engagement with art from the 20th and 21st centuries to support the educational mission of Utah State University, in Logan, Utah. NEHMA offers complementary public programs such as lectures, panels, tours, concerts, and symposia to serve the University and regional community. Admission is free and open to the public. Hours are Tuesday‒Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and by appointment.

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Libby Mark or Heather Meltzer
Bow Bridge Communications

Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art
650 North 1100 East
Logan, Utah
(435) 797-0163

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