For all its progressive politics, Provincetown is artistically a conservative place, as any stroll down Commercial Street will prove with few exceptions. Therefore, to see such a modern effort in this home for art is welcome, and overall the building is successful. i like to think of it as a "nice" building; its pleasing to the eye and is, for the most part, obedient. Is this the right place for an art building to play obedience? With all the freaks trying to catch your eye here, and crotch, i wonder, but my guess is that the Town didn't want a freak.
The plan is straightforward, as you can see below. The Hargood House is on the right, housing the Moffett Gallery and fronting the large gallery and performance space behind. The new entrance, in the new addition, steps back from the street just a bit from the House (containing the Moffett Gallery), allowing the House to fill a more dominant role on the street. The circulation is straightforward; after entering at the Museum Store, one moves in either direction about the volume of the store, and experience both the old house and the new addition. The dominant space is the Hofmann Gallery, with its tall volume, abundant light, and open trusses. Its especially effective to discover this space when moving first through the low, darker spaces of the modern wing.
The elevations are the most successful aspect of the project, making references to local traditions of materials and methods of construction, but doing so in a modern idiom. The project in this respect reminds me of the firm's Allston Library project, poor in layout and movement through space (this project is a bit better in that respect), but with an attractive facade displaying a clever use of materials.
Another reference made is to the proverbial bay window, here positioned on the facade in what would have been the center of the composition had it been "completed", but instead is left voided in deference to the Hargood House, and as a way to relate the new to the old volumetrically. The bay windows turn out to be a mixed blessing, as their butt glazed elegance and near complete transparency allow glimpses to the upper level interiors, and seduce one into a visit to "see me, dahling.." Well, that was the effect they had on me, but i suppose i'm easily seduced.
In fact, you cannot visit the upper levels. Frustration! They house a school and offices for the Association. What looks from below like very provocative spaces peeked at through the bays is not part of the museum, and upon entrance there is no stair at all. The gallery is housed only on the first level, and is completely apart from anything above. No double height space, no open stair to those rooms calling you from above. The building is a pancake, and in this regard spatially banal, like one of those traditional houses it takes so many cues from.
There is also some very poor detailing at the entrance, which made me wonder if the clumsy gutter was tacked on during construction as an afterthought. That the downspout is stuck onto the Hargood House i thought was humorous, being an odd and i think intentionally overt crotch grab of Hargood to declare itself the new entrance.