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Art museum's new building to be green

The North Carolina Museum of Art's new building will be "green," meaning it will meet standards for environmental sustainability.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina Museum of Art's new building will meet standards for environmental sustainability while exhibiting paintings and sculptures in light-filled galleries, officials said Tuesday.

Museum officials took reporters and others on a hard-hat tour of the 127,000-square-foot building, which is scheduled to open in about a year. The expansion will feature 362 skylights, louvres, aluminum-and-glass walls and outdoor courtyards.

"You will be walking through a garden, in essence, and experiencing the collection quite literally in a new light," museum planning director Dan Gottlieb said.

Light has traditionally been an enemy of priceless paintings because it causes colors to fade, but special glass built into the walls will protect the museum's collection while bathing it in natural light.

"(We'll have) light just peeling in from above and from the sides, and you can just imagine what these great works of art will look like in this environment," museum director Larry Wheeler said.

Wheeler said the building will be LEED-certified, which means it will meet standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council. Environmental touches include using natural light to cut utility costs, building a 90,000-gallon cistern to capture rainwater and condensation from the air-conditioning system to use for irrigation and landscaping with drought-tolerant plants.

The building will be home to the museum's existing permanent collection and also to casts of 29 bronze sculptures by Auguste Rodin. Wheeler said other Rodins will be loaned to the museum.

State lawmakers and local officials budgeted for most of the project's $84 million price tag before the recession hit and forced cuts in programs.

"We were lucky," Wheeler said, adding that fundraising has taken a hit in the down economy.

Museum leaders are trying to line up private money to help pay for landscaping and an endowment. Wheeler said they need about $25 million over the next two years.

The museum will close from Sept. 6 to April 2010 to allow staff to move nearly 800 works of art into the new building. The current museum building will be renovated to handle temporary exhibits, classrooms, storage and administrative offices.


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