by Ella Menoche, MuSE Class of 2018

Design is broken down into six fundamental principles: balance, proximity, alignment, repetition, contrast, and space. These principles should all play into the planning of the new campus, because one, without the other, causes a weakness in the design as a whole.

Public spaces need to be designed with intention in order to achieve the goals of the landowners and most benefit the community. This is why the outdated Newport Art Museum campus will benefit most from an inviting and coordinated new design. As it stands, the campus, which is quite large in size, is overlooked by the area’s citizens. Those who frequent other historic public areas near the museum do not commonly frequent the museum grounds or use the grounds as common public space. The reason is simple: the design of the NAM campus confuses and intimidates, which leaves much to be accomplished in the new campus plan.

From observation of other, more ergonomically designed public spaces, our team can see the many faults in the design of the museum grounds. As a public space, the NAM campus needs to be designed with its own initiatives in mind. Since the museum’s aim is to draw in visitors and spread the legacy of the area’s fine artists, the campus needs to reflect such goals in its design. After speaking with NAM Executive Director, Norah Diedrich, I have become aware that the museum is looking to transform the campus into a more open, more accessible people space.

First, the issue the ground’s apparent exclusiveness must be addressed. The best public spaces draw people in with visual cues. Our space, however, is keeping people out. The plain, uninviting lawn lacks paths, signage or any other welcoming cues. Tall hydrangeas border the entire property, in addition to a low stone wall with few entrances. From a design perspective, these features convey one message: Do not enter. Colorful and intelligently spaced flower beds could make the campus a more interesting

Next, the unity of the campus must be considered. The three different buildings that make up the Newport Art Museum look completely unassociated as of now. This will be a main point of focus in the new campus plan. The differences in architecture on campus fosters an interesting eclectic style characteristic of NAM. The introduction of a common color scheme can be an easy way to unify the different buildings at the museum, making the space look and feel more like one affiliated space. Paint and colors need to be utilized to connect the Griswold House, the Cushing Gallery, the parking lots and the community space we aim to create on the lawn. One or two bold colors not found on either of the main building could be used in the new plan as the contemporary touch that he NAM campus needs. Keeping a simple but bold color scheme in the new plan would tie the grounds together, while still respecting the museum’s history and the age of the buildings.