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The Boston Globe

Arts

Gardner Museum addition is a contemporary counterpoint

Renzo Piano’s addition honors and complements the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

For all its acclaim, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum had been housed for over a century behind a dull, largely unadorned exterior concealing the magical array of treasures within. From the outside, the original building is not much more than a tall, buff-colored brick shed crowned by a glazed roof.

Along comes Renzo Piano’s addition to more than double the museum’s space. Set back a respectful 50 feet from the faux Venetian palace dedicated in 1903, its sloping glass walls and copper-sheathed cubes lend it the air of a cutting-edge science laboratory that wandered across the Charles River from the MIT campus.

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