Kimbell Art Museum – Camp Bowie

Kay Kimbell, a successful industrialist who moved to Fort Worth in 1924, amassed great wealth from wheat and grain milling, wholesale and retail food production, petroleum, insurance and real estate. An avid art collector since the l930s, Mt Kimbell and his wife, Velma Fuller Kimbell, established the Kimbell Art Foundation. Before his death in 1964, Kimbell charged the Foundation to build an art museum of the highest rank.
The last project by Louis I. Kahn before his death in 1974, Kahn’s innovative design is considered by many to be a masterwork. The design received the 1975 Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects. Thomas S. Byrne Construction Co. in conjunction with Geren Associates/CRS were responsible for the contracting work. The museum consists of a modular arrangement of sixteen cycloidal vaults. Of post-tensioned concrete, the vaults span 100 feet supported only at their corners. Two wings project west to form a U-plan on both sides of an entry courtyard paved in gravel and shaded by small trees. A vault on the west front of each wing is open, providing shaded porch-like space. Next to the porches and spanning the courtyard, a pool brings the sight and sound of water to the space, though there is no formal fountain. North and south elevations exhibit six lead-roofed vaults in a graceful repeating arched movement. Non-supporting walls are clad in Italian travertine marble, an unusual but pleasing contrast to the natural concrete finish. Skylights extending the length of each vault gently diffuse natural light to the works of art within. Several inner courtyards interrupt the sequence of the vaults, providing garden areas and focal points for sculpture. The excavated site provides a below- grade area for museum offices which opens to a parking area at the rear. The serene relationship to the landscape and light, and restrained, graceful proportions are distinctive qualifies of the Kimbell Art Museum. Given the contributions of the Kimbell family to Fort Worth, the building’s significance in terms of the architect’s work and twentieth-century American architecture, and the major role of this museum in the cultural life of the community, this resource is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

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