Oh, Isabella! Views of the new wing at the ISGM

How do you add onto one of Boston's most iconic museums? Hire an Italian architect and give him a real budget. Then wait for the magic.

Anticipation…The glorious courtyard is packed with plants (including blooming jade trees) for the reopening. This is gonna be big, but what will Isabella think?

A glass corridor links the original palace to the new wing, designed by the highly decorated Italian architect Renzo Piano. The corridor is modest, yet it activates the courtyard which we, the public, rarely got to appreciate. That’s because the original museum entrance was on the opposite side of the palace, and this area was considered back-of-house. The consulting landscape curator, Charles Waldheim, is engaging designers from around the world to create original outdoor moments here.

Piano’s addition is finely detailed and unabashedly modern. It provides all the public and service areas the original palace desperately lacked. I admire it because, in spite of its importance, there’s something casual and intimate about it. And unlike many museums, it has a transparency that engages passersby and the city surrounding it. This may be because this building isn’t about showcasing art (though there are small galleries here), so the usual concerns about UV damage and theft are minimal. Instead, this wing was designed to celebrate all the things that art inspires, including community, music, and contemplation.

I can’t wait to sit in the peaceful lounge space on a sunny winter day and curl up with one of the hundreds of art books that—gasp—I don’t don’t have to buy to enjoy! In another incredibly unusual move, the museum had Piano install plenty of shelving into the central hall, which is now packed with books for anyone’s delectation.

The first floor also features a sunny classroom with space for dozens of school children and families. Expect fun and original drop-in workshops throughout the year.

Best of all, behold! A tiny, world-class theater-in-the-round with astonishingly bright acoustics. The three-tiered balconies let you observe actors and musicians from above. You really have to hear it to believe it. I’m looking forward to the first concert of the New Year: Anonymous 4, a female a cappella group, on January 29.

The new wing also features a contemporary gallery with new works by former artist-in-residence Victoria Morton. The lower right image shows its curator, Pieranna Cavalchini. Now, let’s go shopping…

Store manager and buyer M.K. Wong comes by way of ABC Carpets and she wants to introduce Boston to all kinds of lovely and unusual things. The museum will officially open to the public on January 19. See you there!