When the High Museum of Art unveils its $124 million expansion on Saturday, Nov. 12, Atlanta’s art collection will become more accessible to the public because of new spaces and extended hours.

“Our idea, of course, was to have space inside the museum to show the art, but also to have a place outside where people could meet. We wanted to mix art with the public,” Elisabetta Trezzani, told GlobalAtlanta in a recent interview.

Once the museum opens, newly extended hours until 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday nights will also allow businesspersons to experience the museum during the week, said Cassandra Champion, spokesperson for the museum.

Also, the new expansion may encourage business visitors to the city to spend extra time in Atlanta, Ms. Trezzani said. “I know from my own experience in traveling for work that I will stay for the weekend if the city offers something cultural to do,” she said.

Ms. Trezzani has been traveling between Atlanta and her firm’s headquarters in Genoa, Italy, since Mr. Piano was asked by High officials in 1998 to head-up the expansion project. A globally renowned architect, Mr. Piano first gained recognition by designing the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 1977 and was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, also referred to as the Nobel Prize of Architecture, in 1998.

In his 177,000 square-foot, three-building expansion, Mr. Piano’s design joins the existing Memorial Arts Building and High Museum structures of the Woodruff Arts Center to the three new buildings of the expanded museum by way of a European-style piazza or courtyard.

The courtyard will add some 200 trees, ivy and a grass lawn to the block between 15th and 16th Streets, and it will house the new main entrance to the museum to be located in the recently constructed, Wieland Pavillion. The Administrative Center building and the Anne Cox Chambers Wing, which will house an exhibition of visiting pieces from Paris’ Louvre Museum beginning in fall 2006, were also included in Mr. Piano’s expansion project.

In the new design, Mr. Piano wanted to encourage interaction among individuals, as well as between the public and art, so several new outdoor pieces, including “House III,” a 13-foot high, 17.5 foot-wide Roy Lichtenstein sculpture, have been added to the outdoor space, Ms. Trezzani said. He also wanted to emphasize nature and the greenness of Atlanta, which he noticed on his first trip to the city, she added.

Ms. Trezzani has worked with Mr. Piano’s Genoa-based architectural firm, the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, for eight years and will join the company on its next museum project for the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

While the museum does not officially open for another two weeks, the expansion project, which has included work from Atlanta-based architectural firm Lord, Aeck & Sargent Inc. and construction and landscaping company Jordon, Jones & Goulding Inc., has moved quickly along schedule.

“The only thing that you’ll see that’s really missing now is the people,” Ms. Trezzani said.

She has also helped Mr. Piano with his design of the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas.

Mr. Piano was named a goodwill ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for his work to protect UN World Heritage sites.

For more information on Mr. Piano, visit www.rpbw.com. Contact Ms. Trezzani at etrezzani@rpbw.com. For more information on the High, visit www.high.org or www.buildingthehigh.org. Contact Ms. Champion at (404) 733-4436.