Isabella Stewart Gardner was an American philanthropist and patron of the arts. In 1903, Mrs. Gardner established her eponymous museum with a very specific vision in mind: she wanted to give art in America a new context by opening up her palace and courtyard to visitors who could experience music, the gardens, and classic and contemporary art, all under one roof. Her vision also included restrictive provisions about modifications to the original building, a purpose-built structure designed to resemble a fifteenth-century Venetian palace.
The 71,000 square foot modern addition complements the Venetian palace design of the museum without resembling it. The new construction, which gracefully connects to the original structure by way of a glass corridor, includes four floating pavilions which house a visitor and orientation area, special exhibition gallery for light-sensitive objects, an acoustically isolated music hall with vertically oriented seating, as well as classrooms, a café, gift shop, office spaces, and conservation labs. An ancillary structure contains additional offices, a greenhouse, and apartments for artists-in-residence. In renovating the museum, developers were also able to repurpose historical doors and windows that had previously been hidden from the public.