The Glass Pavilion was designed by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, lead architects of SANAA (Sejima and Nishizawa and Associates), a Tokyo-based firm known for designing attractive and functional museums that relate well to their sites, and for using architectural glass with extraordinary skill.
The exterior and many of the interior walls of the Pavilion are made entirely of glass. The roof and interior structural supports are made of steel. Each of the more than 360 panels—many of them curved—that make up the glass walls measures approximately 8 feet wide by 13 ½ feet high, and weighs 1,300 to 1,500 pounds.
The Glass Pavilion’s 74,000 square feet contains a main floor and full basement. Elegantly simple in appearance but complex in organization, it uses no architectural ornament and is forthright in the display of high-tech Modern materials. Essential features include a squarish, asymmetrical plan with rounded corners, low profile capped by a flat roof, clean lines, and pure forms.
The continuous wall so crucial to the Pavilion’s architectural effects required a special effort on the part of architects and engineers to make it possible. Since the glass wall could not support any weight, the design team created an exquisite structural system to hold up the roof, which is unusually slim and light. Deceptively simple, the roof contains such an astonishing array of electrical, structural, and mechanical devices that those involved in its design and construction liken it to a Swiss watch.
The Glass Pavilion was designed to serve two complementary roles: as art museum and as studio. Architectural glass is key to the twin roles. The glass walls divide space, while their transparency encourages visitors to connect objects and activities across boundaries. The Pavilion is thus unique in that it fosters a close physical—and transparent— relationship between the art in the galleries and the artists in the glassworking studios.
Construction took two years and cost a total of $30 million.
After its groundbreaking in August 2006, the building received widespread attention and accolades. The Los Angeles Times said, “[The Glass Pavilion] packs a significant architectural punch,” and The New York Times raved that “…the new Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art…can reawaken the belief in the power of glass to enchant.”
In 2007, the Glass Pavilion was named “Best Museum” in Travel+Leisure’s 2007 Design Awards, and received an Institutional Excellence Award from the Ohio Museums Association.
This landmark museum building—a work of art in itself—continues the legacies of Toledo as the Glass City, of Museum founder Edward Drummond Libbey, and of the Studio Glass Movement inaugurated here in the 1960s.