Design Award Entries

Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts

Creating a vibrant space for social interaction, education, and appreciation for the arts, the design for the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts transforms this premier cultural institution into a signature civic asset.

Working from the inside out, new construction and renovations clarify the organization of the building’s interior while extending AMFA's presence into historic MacArthur Park, opening the museum to the city of Little Rock and beckoning the public within.

Project Statement

Bringing together people, art, and nature, the design for the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts (AMFA) establishes a vibrant destination for culture and community in Little Rock. The reimagined AMFA renews and reuses as many of the Museum’s existing buildings as possible, bringing them together as a harmonious whole. A new, connective space, running axially through the entire building like a graceful stem, unifies and reorganizes the Museum’s functions and programs, and supports a seamless flow across the site. At each end, the stem blossoms outward, creating distinctive entrances and social spaces that embrace the revitalized landscape and city beyond.

While already a well-loved institution within Little Rock, the Museum had become a victim of its own success: seven additions had resulted in a fortress-like facility with inefficient circulation and a lack of connection to its surroundings. The client’s goal was to improve visitor experience and staff operations, open the building up to the surrounding park and city, and create a bold new visual identity, while also creating a sustainable building that could support a wider range of educational and public programs.

Constructed with a folded-plate, cast-in-place concrete roof that provides both visual interest and structural integrity, the new central addition unifies the eight existing structures and creates an intuitive organization for the Museum’s different functions and programs –including its galleries, art school, and theater, which were substantially renovated and reimagined.

With distinctive new entrances, the design addresses one of the project’s most significant challenges: opening the building up to its surroundings. Visitors arriving from the north are greeted by a new community gathering space, the Cultural Living Room. With its transparent facade and bold, uplifted form, the inviting space is conceived as a beacon that welcomes everyone inside.

At the south end, the building’s central stem emerges outward to form another entrance, oriented toward MacArthur Park. More informal than its counterpart to the north, the Park Entrance steps down in height, along with the site’s topography, to meet visitors. The deep overhangs of the folded-plate roof create a sheltered dining terrace for the new indoor-outdoor restaurant, where people can socialize, relax, and enjoy the revitalized landscape and Sculpture Garden beyond.

Building on the project’s environmental stewardship, the design also ensured that the most carbon-intensive elements of the Museum’s existing additions were reused and renewed: the original structure and foundations, which are made of concrete and steel. Together with other sustainable strategies, such as the self-shading roof, efficient radiant heating and cooling system, and innovative rainwater recycling system, the project is on track to achieve LEED Silver certification, an impressive achievement for an adaptive reuse project in the hot climate of the American South.