Construction began this week on a $14 million addition to the Weisman Art Museum, the silvery cubistic University of Minnesota building overlooking the Mississippi River at Washington Avenue.

Designed by Los Angeles architect Frank Gehry, who also designed the existing 1993 building, the 8,100-square-foot expansion will add four galleries and a "creative collaboration" studio for new projects by artists, scholars, faculty and students.

"We plan to have foundations and site work done by the end of the year, but you won't see anything rising above the ground" until next spring, said Weisman director Lyndel King.

The project is scheduled for completion in October 2011. The museum will remain open during construction next year, but expects to close for about 12 months starting next October.

Design of the new galleries was complicated by the narrowness of the museum's original site, its hillside position and the parking garage in its basement. The new galleries will be in four brick boxes jutting out from the southeast corner of the building, perched on tall piers to match the existing galleries built atop the garage.

The studio, a $2 million space paid for by Target Corp., will curve around the building's north side facing Washington Avenue. To reduce costs, the museum sacrificed plans for a restaurant with catering kitchen. Instead it will convert the existing riverview gallery into a "coffee kiosk" that will serve light lunches and desserts made off-site.

"It won't be a free-standing restaurant but it will not serve vending machine stuff either," King said.

The museum has raised $14.15 million for the project, $10.65 million from private sources and $3.5 million from the university, which includes $1.5 million to cover the cost of reinstalling the steel-skirted pedestrian bridge on the museum's north side.

Minneapolis-based HGA Architects and Engineers, which also worked on the original building, will be the project's local architects. Contracting will be handled by JE Dunn Construction.

Mary Abbe • 612-673-4431