BEN CLASSON/Herald photo

After fundraising and gathering support since the late 1990s, Chazen Museum supporters received their first glimpse Thursday night of a 62,000-square foot expansion project.

Rodolfo Machado and Jorge Silvetti of Associates of Boston were awarded the bid last month in association with Continuum Architects in Milwaukee. Machado visited the campus Thursday night and spoke to a crowd at the Chazen with a set of preliminary concept renderings.

Museum director Russell Panczenko said the addition will include a large building east of the existing structure, integrating into the University of Wisconsin's long-range east campus mall plans.

"The design vision will create world-class museum that fully integrates the existing museum, the addition and new outdoor spaces as a gateway to the east campus arts district," Panczenko said.

Machado spoke at length about connecting the two buildings with either one or two large bridges, leaving green space beneath. He presented another design with composite glass on the bridge that "turns opaque at the flip of a switch." Machado explained his vision of a long stretch of grass lined with trees that would connect University Avenue with Library Mall and eventually Lake Mendota.

"With the one-bridge diagram, it would be wide enough for a gallery," Machado said. "There would be continuity — you wouldn't even know you were moving buildings."

Panczenko said the design will also allow for a 160-seat auditorium that will feature lectures and films.

The addition will allow the museum to display about 1,600 items of its 18,000-piece collection, of which it can currently only display 800.

"We've set up temporary exhibitions, but when we take other things down we deprive students who have papers to write," Panczenko said. "I've got a lot of faculty and students who wanted some more stability, and that will happen."

Machado said the existing museum will be integrated into his design.

"It's a good example of how things were in 1964 — not trendy but sober," he said.

Additionally, Machado addressed the neighboring architecture — such as the Humanities Building — which he called "horrendous."

When designing the Chazen addition, Machado and his associates said they will also take into consideration the 11-story Student Activity Center in the process of being built across the street from Chazen.

The new design will fit into the UW plan to redevelop the arts sector of the campus with the backing of Chancellor John Wiley.

"The chancellor has been extremely supportive and interested in enhancing the arts district for the university," said Tim Erdman, chair of the Chazen Council. "Because [UW] has grown so much in the biological and engineering … sciences, his support has been so important to get us to this point."

Panczenko said the project has been legitimately underway to expand since 1999 after discussions with a "feasibility coordinator," and the plans received a major boost when Simona and Jerry Chazen stepped forward with a $20 million donation.

Although the presentation was preliminary, those in attendance said they are encouraged for the future.

"It's exciting to see something tangible shaping up," said Robert Krainer, professor in the School of Business. "It's going to be an extremely beautiful view on that bridge toward Lake Mendota — the possibilities look endless."