The Chazen Museum of Art in Madison, Wisconsin, has amassed an impressive collection since it opened in 1970, growing from 1,500 to more than 20,000 pieces. But the cramped and outdated building wasn’t much fun to visit. Now, a $43 million 86,000-square-foot expansion has doubled the space and created a gorgeous framework worthy of showcasing what’s inside.
For the first time, Chazen has dedicated space for African, Asian and Midwest surrealism, as well as its collection of 21st-century international art complementing centuries of American and European works. And there’s a great new gift shop.
But most impressive may be the building itself. Architect Rodolfo Machado created a second structure to complement the first, then attached the two at the third floor with a bridge. The bridge straddles a lovely new pedestrian mall with a polished limestone “carpet” flowing from outside to inside, across the lobby floor and up the three-floor staircase. The two-story voile-and-felt curtain against the main glass wall is yet another work of art—particularly as it closes, like a dancer swirling her skirts.
Admission is free. 750 University Ave., Madison. (608) 263-2246; chazen.wisc.edu 
(A version of this story appeared in Midwest Living® September/October 2012.)