SO–IL \ WCMA: Building a New Museum

Plans for the Future

By: - May 21, 2024

The Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) presents SOIL \ WCMA: Building a New Museum, an exhibition that showcases the design process behind WCMA’s new home, projected to open in 2027. After years of thoughtful planning, WCMA and Williams College have collaborated with the internationally recognized architecture and design firm SO–IL to create a new, state-of-the-art building as the museum’s first purpose-built home since it opened inside Lawrence Hall in 1926 the college’s former library. The design process for the new building began in June 2022 and has been marked by its highly collaborative journey between the design team, the Museum, and the College.

Organized jointly by the design team and the museum, SOIL \ WCMA: Building a New Museum features plans and renderings of the building design and offers a view into the design team’s work in progress and the fluid and iterative process behind the design that visitors will see illustrated in the galleries. The exhibition will also highlight three of SO–IL’s recent projects that embody the firm’s approach to creating spaces for art including, the Kukje Gallery in Seoul, Korea; the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the University of California at Davis; and the Amant Art Campus in Brooklyn, New York.

Pamela Franks, Class of 1956 Director of the Williams College Museum of Art, said, “The design process for our new home has been an exciting collaboration with SO–IL, engaging our Museum, College, and local communities to critically consider what it means to be a 21st-century teaching museum for both students and the general public alike. The new WCMA will be a place to convene a range of audiences in a relaxed setting and encourage them to engage with the teaching mission of the College, not only through our collection, programs, and special exhibitions, but also through this sustainable building that will sit in dialogue with the beautiful natural surroundings of the region. We are grateful to be working with architects Jing Liu and Florian Idenburg and their team at SO–IL, and with executive architects Perry Dean Rogers, landscape architects Reed Hilderbrand, and the members of the Williams College Campus Building Committee who have served as advisors and ambassadors for the project.”

Jing Liu and Florian Idenburg, architects, founding partners of SO–IL said: "Designing a college art museum is one of the most exciting tasks we as architects can imagine. Our hope is that this exhibition provides a sense of what goes into the design of a complex and ambitious building and provides an opportunity for our communities to learn and think together about what it means to make a campus art museum for the future.”

Prominently located at the western entrance to the Williams College campus and the town, the new Williams College Museum of Art is conceived to serve the College, the local community, and visitors to the Berkshires through four program areas. While slightly set apart like pavilions, the better to accommodate their multiple uses, the program areas are unified through their materials, their openness to the natural setting, their organization around a central gathering place, and a distinctive overarching roof that shelters them all.

A courtyard garden stands at the heart of the building, north of the central lobby between the two gallery arms, locating nature at the center of the building. The porosity of the design creates the sense that its architecture is embedded directly into the Berkshires landscape, an expression of the project’s rigorous emphasis on sustainability. Outside the building, bioretention basins will catch and treat rainwater, while a cistern beneath the parking lot will hold water back until the brook running north of the site can handle the run-off. The landscape around the building, designed by Reed Hilderbrand, will be renewed and reforested, with a flowering meadow and gardens featuring native plants.

For more information, contact the museum at 413-597-2429 or visit

WCMA is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.