The new building at the North Carolina Museum of Art provides more than 65,000 square feet of exhibition space, in addition to public areas such as a store and a café. The entry plaza is delineated by a tree-lined path that leads to a 2-1/2-acre environmental art installation (completed in 1997), which includes an amphitheater by New York architects Smith-Miller Hawkinson, a sprawling environmental work by conceptual artist Barbara Kruger, and landscaping by Nicholas Quennell.
Although the perimeter is clad in anodized-aluminum panels, which protect the artwork from harsh southern and western sunlight, the façades around inset sculpture areas are lined with fritted glass, giving the gallery spaces a connection to the outdoors without allowing copious sunlight to compromise the safety of the artwork.
Outside (and reflected by) the entry canopy is an informal seating area for visitors. Covered by porous gravel pavement that admits rainwater into filtration beds, the area is part of a larger water-management strategy that includes collecting roof and roadway runoff into a 90,000-gallon cistern, which is used for irrigation and maintaining water levels in the site's reflecting pools.
The canopy creates a shaded indoor-outdoor entry sequence into the new building, with glass walls that allow views out to one of the five courtyards inset into the floorplan and a stainless steel ceiling that reflects the patrons entering or leaving the building. The canopy ends at tall glass entry doors that lead into the main sculpture hall, the central space around which the other 40 galleries are organized.
The museum features skylights with an interlayer for UV protection. The skylights have louvered domes oriented to allow only indirect north light into the galleries, and the oculi are covered in lightweight, interchangeable fabric scrims calibrated to complete the filtering process.