The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, hosts a small art collection, traveling art exhibitions, educational programs, and an extensive research library. In fall 2010, the museum broke ground on an expansion west of the existing Louis Khan building. Designed by architect Renzo Piano, the new pavilion will provide the much-needed space to display temporary exhibitions.

Originally, Piano thought about using travertine walls to match the existing building. But using concrete offered a better price and product for long-term maintenance.

The 300-foot-long, 22-foot-high building is composed of two parallel wings. The west wing has a roof which appears to rise out of the ground with berms on either end and concrete retaining walls on the sides. The top layer hovers above the east wing’s most prominent feature: large wood beams that appear to float above the concrete and glass walls and are held aloft by square concrete columns.

“We began the non-architectural work in early 2011 and from March to September, we did onsite mockups using back-of-house non-architectural walls to experiment with mix designs and formwork issues,” says Dan Simoneau, senior project manager for Capform Inc. The formwork wasn’t problematic, but the concrete mix was having significant problems with black spots and slag staining. The museum directors were not satisfied so concrete supplier TXI and Capform proposed using an integral color of titanium dioxide to make the color acceptable.

Once the color was selected, Capform began working on the architectural walls. In addition to the retaining wall, concrete was used in the stairwells, auditorium, garage, and some exterior walls. All of these walls had conventional tie systems but high quality architectural concrete.

“This was a very painstaking, and at times, frustrating project for us,” says Simoneau. “But the final results are quite satisfying.” The cool and silken sheen of the architectural concrete, an important element of the design of the Piano pavilion, was achieved and the museum will open to the public in November 2013.