Waltemath Foundation, Hooper, Nebraska
Foundation for Nebraska-born and NYC-based abstract painter Joan Waltemath.
The design concept was to use the artist’s grid-based paintings as point of departure, and to develop a method for locating the project in the existing building, town, and region. This first required that the agricultural grid, the town grid, and the building structural grid be reconciled. The grid network was then understood in relation to the diagonal motion of the Elkhorn River, flowing from the Sandhills in the Northwest to the Platte River in the Southeast. The River creates a changing figure that reveals a real landscape, in contrast to the conceptual tabula rasa assumed by the Jeffersonian grid. Together the river and flood plane, which contains pools, canals and levies to distribute and contain floodwaters, create a topographic zone that collides with the rational grid structure and initiates a formal response.
The dynamic relationship between water, topography, grid and city plan create an abstract palette that guided the placement and configuration of program clusters throughout the existing building. In order to maximize hanging space throughout the foundation, these clusters are dense, compact, and hermetic. Living quarters are tucked and hidden throughout larger studio, archive, storage and gallery spaces so that all walls can serve as a gallery for complete and in-progress work. Construction details for the new clusters translate between a reductionist vocabulary and the existing 1883 masonry structure.