Wellin Museum of Art
Hamilton College

Clinton, USA


The Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art, located on the campus of Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, is a teaching museum that invites visitors to explore groundbreaking exhibitions, a globally representative teaching collection, and engaging programming. The museum's design by Machado and Silvetti Associates follows a tripartite layout, with a central "cabinet of curiosities" entry lobby and archives flanked by gallery and service wings.

Developed in close collaboration with the faculty, the design brings museum visitors directly from campus paths and outdoor sculpture areas through a monumental two-story glass archive hall that showcases the College's unique collection. The museum's inner workings, including holding and receiving areas, archive spaces, administrative offices, and seminar rooms, are purposefully visible through object-filled glass cases, putting the museum's operations on display.

To meet stringent archival standards, the project is engineered to maintain precise temperature and humidity requirements. The museum's heating and cooling are supplied by a closed-loop geothermal well field beneath the sculpture terrace, while occupancy sensors, a high-performance building envelope, and other energy-efficient systems align with the College's sustainability goals.

A striking feature of the museum is the exhibition space comprised of two large, double-sided display cases engineered by Goppion. Each case measures an impressive 17 meters wide by 8.5 meters tall, together spanning the full length and height of the two-story central atrium's facing walls. Visitors can ascend an impressive metal and glass staircase to view the exhibitions from the upper floors.

The display cases' doors rotate vertically to open, and the top of the lower section structurally anchors the upper section to the concrete mezzanine footing. Special engineering elements were introduced to counteract the natural tendencies of the elastic cement floors to bend against the rigid metal and glass components, preventing potential glass breakage.

Goppion's innovative engineering solutions and collaborative approach with the architects enabled the Wellin Museum to realize its vision of fostering unexpected connections through a seamless integration of archival, exhibition, and academic spaces.