Category Archives: museum

Pizzagalli Center for Art & Education

Pizzagalli Center for Art & Education at Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont, by Ann Beha Architects, 2013

"The campus side offers a one-story structure with a long welcoming porch." Photograph by Peter Vanderwarker, courtesy of Ann Beha Architects

As museums around the United States continue to expand—think St. Louis Art Museum and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others—their facilities overtake parts of the city and the landscape, resulting in sometimes over-sized institutions. Another tactic can be found in Shelburne, Vermont, and the new Pizzagalli Center for Art and Education at the Shelburne Museum, a 45-acre (18-hectare) campus with nearly 40 buildings. The new Center, designed by Ann Beha Architects, adds only 16,000 square feet of exhibition and educational spaces, but it nevertheless makes a large impact on the museum, particularly by allowing it to stay open year-round, when previously it closed during the winter months.

"View from the Museum Campus." Photograph by Peter Vanderwarker, courtesy of Ann Beha Architects

Of course, adding to the Shelburne Museum in the manner of other institutions does not make sense, for twenty-five of its buildings are historical and were relocated to the grounds. For one, this creates an eclectic collection of buildings ("houses, barns, a meeting house, a one-room schoolhouse, a lighthouse, a jail, a general store, a covered bridge, and the 220-foot steamboat Ticonderoga," per the museum) that is without a definitive center or base to add on to; this also means that the buildings are part of the collection, not just containers for the art. The new building respects this by locating itself near the parking lot and museum entry to become a starting point for experiencing the grounds, and by giving a visitors a place from which to take in the museum's Lake Champlain Valley landscape.

"The building is clad with horizontal and vertical cedar on a granite fieldstone base." Photograph by Peter Vanderwarker, courtesy of Ann Beha Architects

While the unique museum takes its name from its locale, it is really the product of Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888-1960), who founded the museum in 1947. Her parents collected European and Asian art, instilling in her an appreciation and eye for art, but she collected buildings to house her Impressionist paintings, folk art, quilts and textiles, decorative arts, furniture, and American paintings now totaling 150,000 objects. Her approach speaks to a breaking down of the boundaries between art and architecture; they work together (and with the landscape) to create an aesthetic and educational institution where history and distant places converge.

"The auditorium provides magnificent views of the Museum’s historic steamboat." Photograph by Peter Vanderwarker, courtesy of Ann Beha Architects

So how does an architect add something to a campus where every style imaginable can be found? One approach would take this as an invitation for free rein, rewarding a formally exuberant piece that would become the early 21st-century building amongst the other 38 buildings. But Ann Beha takes a modern yet understated approach, resulting in what the New York Times calls "Modernist pastoral." Two overlapping bars, set at about a 15-degree angle to each other, sit atop stone walls that anchor the two-story building firmly in place. Above the stone are walls of wood, large windows with carefully framed views, and overhanging copper roofs.

"The upper and lower level lobbies are designed for events, installations, and music." Photograph by Peter Vanderwarker, courtesy of Ann Beha Architects

The two bars basically define the exhibition and educational components of the program; the former to the south and the latter to the north. They utilize spaces on both floors, but the upper floor is where the most light is gained and where views are to be had. Here is also where the west-facing porch can be found, an in-between space that connects the new building with the landscape and campus of buildings beyond. The space may not have a program, like the galleries and exhibition spaces, but it's integral for lending an appreciation of the museum that Electra Havemeyer Webb created.

"The upper level lobby looks out onto the porch and campus beyond." Photograph by Peter Vanderwarker, courtesy of Ann Beha Architects

"The upper level provides galleries for special exhibitions. The galleries incorporate local beech flooring and a flexible ceiling and lighting system. Lighting is provided by a combination of LED tracks and daylight diffused through a translucent laylight." Photograph by Peter Vanderwarker, courtesy of Ann Beha Architects

"Lower Level Lobby." Photograph by Peter Vanderwarker, courtesy of Ann Beha Architects

"The education studio accommodates year-round programs in studio art for children and adults." Photograph by Peter Vanderwarker, courtesy of Ann Beha Architects

Site Plan

"Lit from clerestories, the upper level is connected to the lower level via a glass and stone-clad stair."

Saint Louis Art Museum East Building

Saint Louis Art Museum East Building in St. Louis, Missouri, by David Chipperfield Architects, 2013

North elevation. Photograph by Aaron Dougherty

Many thanks to Aaron Dougherty for the photographs of SLAM's new East Building.

South Terrace. Photograph by Aaron Dougherty

In 2005 David Chipperfield Architects was selected for the Saint Louis Art Museum's (SLAM) expansion. Two years later the British architect unveiled his design for the East Building, a low modern addition that quietly respects Cass Gilbert's Palace of Fine Arts, the only lasting building from the 1904 Worlds Fair and one of three buildings SLAM occupied to date (above- and below-ground expansions occurred in the 1980s). Due to the recession, it would take another three years for construction to start, and another three years for the project's completion. The $160 million, 200,000-sf (18,580-sm—more than half devoted to below-grade parking) East Building opened on June 28, 2013—free, just as it's always been.

North Entrance. Photograph by Aaron Dougherty

Taylor Hall, north entrance. Photograph by Aaron Dougherty

The East Building's exterior is predominantly dark concrete and glass; the former provides a contrast between the light stone of the Main Building and the addition, while large openings of the latter frame views of Forest Park. The Panorama Restaurant looks north toward the Grand Basin, while different galleries reach out toward the other cardinal directions (see Level 2 plan, at bottom). Daylight entering the galleries is modulated through automated vertical shades wired to rooftop sensors. As we'll see, natural light is one of the driving forces of the design.

Sculpture Hall in 1904 Main Building. Photograph by Aaron Dougherty

Entrance to Panorama Restaurant adjacent to Taylor Hall. Photograph by Aaron Dougherty

The plan of Chipperfield's addition (carried out with HOK as architect-of-record, it should be noted) wraps itself around the 1904 Main Building in an "L" shape, linking to the older building on its east and south sides. The plan further pinwheels through smaller "L"s, each end reaching out to frame the views mentioned above. Next to the restaurant on the north side of the East Building is a new entrance, but it does not replace the original entrance, which drops visitors into the grand Sculpture Hall. People have a choice of how to enter and then move through SLAM, but a difference between the old and new buildings happens through what is on display: the East Building focuses on contemporary art and special exhibitions (for which admission is charged). The larger galleries in the new building can accommodate larger pieces of art, one reason SLAM underwent the expansion.

Gallery 259, looking from Taylor Hall with Main Building beyond. Photograph by Aaron Dougherty

Gallery 251. Photograph by Aaron Dougherty

If the exterior is dark and mute, the interior is light with the artwork coming to the fore. The windows that are visible from the outside are an important component in providing so much light, but not as important as the ceiling, made up of skylights inserted between 4'-deep (1.2-m) concrete beams on a 5'x10' (1.5mx3m) module. To eliminate any direct sunlight from entering the galleries from above, the infill between the beams is made up of four layers: a glass skylight on the roof, then an adjustable blackout blind, followed by a "halo" to block residual light, and finally a "light spreader" made of translucent resin panels. Also tucked above the bottom of the beams are downlights and exit signs, creating remarkably uncluttered galleries that are anything but generic.

Gallery 252, with south-facing window. Photograph by Aaron Dougherty

Gallery 256, overlooking South Terrace. Photograph by Aaron Dougherty

Chipperfield's design could be discussed alongside contemporary museums by the likes of Renzo Piano and Allied Works—museums that filter sunlight from overhead into galleries that aim to serve the artwork—but a more fitting comparison would be with the public buildings and landscapes recently completed and underway in St. Louis. SLAM's opening of the East Building follows the reopening of the St. Louis Public Library's Central Library by about six months; Cannon's renovation similarly takes a beloved 19th-century building and makes it usable for the 21st century. Add to that Michael Van Valkenburgh's work on the grounds of the St. Louis Arch—especially the portion decking over the interstate to connect the Arch and downtown (on axis with the great CityGarden, another recent project of note)—and the city is finally making some great investments into its public infrastructure.

Andy Goldsworthy's "Stone Sea," near South Terrace. Photograph by Aaron Dougherty

Level 2 plan, courtesy of SLAM

MCA Denver

All photographs by John Hill

Museum of Contemporary Art Denver in Denver, Colorado, by David Adjaye Associates, 2007

They say that a book should not be judged by its cover. The same sentiment should surely be applied to architecture, since what a building presents to the street—its facade—is never a totally accurate depiction of what is happening inside. This pertains to traditional buildings as well as modern architecture, but it is particularly pronounced in the case of the latter, particularly all-glass exteriors that reflect the surroundings rather than giving a peek inside. A building where this is pronounced especially is David Adjaye's competition-winning design for the MCA Denver. What looks like a simple glass box at first glance is fairly complex in three places: the back of the building, the interior, and the rooftop.

On approach to the building, a Cor-ten clad mass detached from the museum on one side draws one's attention. The house is also designed by Adjaye (the LN House on his website) and works on a similar premise while also being quite different; namely, its skin is flat and taut but the rust has a much different sensation than the glass. The lane between the two buildings leads to more residences that cater to the popularity of the adjacent LoDo District (Lower Downtown) as well as the museum itself. Cantilevering over the lane is a wood box in the far corner of the museum, something that looks a little precarious and has a strong presence; but it's a total surprise, nowhere to be seen when approaching the building.

Walking back to the intersection to enter the museum, one gets a close look at the exterior glass walls (above). They are dark but are translucent, as if they are painted on the interior or have curtains behind them. What is actually going on is revealed when ascending the ramp from the corner to the entrance (below). Behind the glass is a layer of translucent plastic (Monopan, to be precise) that insulates the interior spaces while softening the light that enters the galleries. Adjaye used the material before in the studio/residence he designed for two artists in Brooklyn, where it is used as an outer skin and silkscreened to take on a dark appearance.

The heart of the building is a full-height, T-shaped space capped by two linear skylights. While the glass-box exterior gives the impression that the building, like office buildings with similar wrappers, is made up of pancake slabs behind the exterior skin, the institutional program allows some flexibility. Turning the 180-degrees from entrance ramp, through sliding glass door, and around the ticket counter, the atrium space came as quite a surprise. Given how the translucent panels eliminate direct sunlight entering galleries, the atrium space is a means of defining the locations of the galleries, creating a center within the museum, bringing natural light to the center of the building, and orienting visitors as they move through the spaces.

Where the circulation on the ground floor happens below the T-shaped skylights, on the second floor the circulation is pushed to the perimeter, with galleries sitting roughly in the middle of the plan (three galleries on the other side of the atrium walls). The circulation on both floors, combined with the stairs connecting the two (and the roof) adds up to a good chunk of the building's 25,000-sf area. Since the MCA Denver is not a collecting institution, it can be a little loose in the ratio of functional space to circulation.

The first and last of the three surprises are found on the roof. A hint of something happening on the roof can be glimpsed from across the street (top photo) but, like the cantilevered box seen from the lane below, it's not until walking up to the roof that they are fully grasped. Inside the wooden box is a lounging area that is more art than furniture, and out on the roof deck are planters, a cafe, and a variety of places for sitting and taking in views of Denver.

Clyfford Still Museum

All photographs by John Hill

Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, Colorado, by Allied Works, 2011

One of the highlights from a recent trip to Denver for the AIA Convention was definitely the Clyfford Still Museum, designed by Brad Cloepfil and Allied Works. The rectangular box sits in the Civic Center area, directly next door to Daniel Libeskind's 2006 addition to Gio Ponti's 1971 Denver Art Museum; the latter is visible across the street in the photo above. The Still is like an ocean of calm in the maelstrom, looking inward as its immediate neighbor explodes outward (see the aerial at bottom for a good look at the adjacency and contrast of Cloepfil's and Libeskind's buildings).

That the Still is an introverted museum is fairly clear from the outside, given the primarily solid walls and the few windows that can be found on any of the four faces. These openings range from clear glass (the smaller openings) to wood-screened apertures that are much larger; the entrance bridges these two, with wood slats layered in front of full-height glass walls. The concrete walls are not just solid, they are textured, accentuating their depth and solidity, and giving the impression (even from across the street, photo above) that they have been worked by hand.

Up close, the concrete skin has an even more pronounced profile, but one that is irregular—in terms of the spacing of the vertical projections, their depth, and their roughness. One can only wager how the formwork was arranged and removed; the latter seems to have taken concrete along with it, something that must have pleased Cloepfil, making a richly varied surface. The wood slats give a hint at the formwork...are they the same width as the strips above? Are they reused from formwork? I doubt there is a one-to-one relationship, but the two work together in terms of dimensions and rhythm. And it should be noted that the first tangible non-visual sensation of the building is the smell of wood when passing by the slats near the entry.

The textured concrete walls continue inside, giving museum-goers a chance to rub their hands along them. Like me, one does not need a deep knowledge of Clyfford Still's art to appreciate the architecture and to see the relationship between one and the other. The building's concrete and plaster walls, wood floors, and open precast concrete ceiling create a calm setting for the paintings, most of which have a vertical orientation like the textured concrete. What is most unexpected about the museum's layout is the complexity of space: it flows from one gallery to another over the walls and under the skylights. Glimpses can be made from gallery to gallery through openings that visually connect the spaces and give light numerous paths throughout the museum.

Cloepfil explains the building and site as "a place of refuge from the intense light of central Colorado." Further, in regards the upper-floor galleries: "Overhead, an open lattice of concrete unites the body of the building and offers illumination and connection to the atmosphere of the city. The galleries respond to the evolving character of Still’s art, changing scale and proportion, while varying the intensity of light."

Another surprise is found in the exterior terraces that are found at the southwest and northeast corners of the museum. They are situated behind the wood-slat openings that turn their respective corners (see the fourth photo for exterior view of below terrace). Like the olfactory experience at the entrance, these spaces are rich for the senses. They offer the museum-goer a break from Still's paintings, but also a chance to look at the surroundings through the wood slats; perhaps this is a way to see the world through Still's eyes, a wood filter that abstracts the surroundings into color and vertical lines.

101 Spring Street

Art and architecture—all the arts—do not have to exist in isolation, as they do now. This fault is very much a key to the present society. Architecture is nearly gone, but it, art, all the arts, in fact all parts of society, have to be rejoined, and joined more than they have ever been. -Donald Judd, 1986

101 Spring Street in New York City by Architecture Research Office, 2013


[5th Floor, 2013. Photo Credit: Josh White. Donald Judd Art © Judd Foundation. Licensed by VAGA, New York Artwork © John Chamberlain. © Lucas Samaras. Dan Flavin © Stephen Flavin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Donald Judd FurnitureTM© Judd Foundation.]

In 1968, artist Donald Judd (1928-1994) purchased a 5-story cast iron building in SoHo for $68,000, subsequently moving his studio and his family there from further uptown. Constructed in 1870 by Nicholas Whyte, the impressive gray and glass building is located on the northeast corner of Spring and Mercer Streets. When Judd moved in, the area was an empty assemblage of industrial buildings that was on the cusp of the transformations (at first clandestine and later embraced by the city) that eventually helped turned SoHo into the pricey enclave it is today. That the Judd Foundation has been able to keep hold of the property (it's the only single-function building left in SoHo) and restore the building for public visits is both remarkable and necessary—now people can better appreciate Judd's work, his relationship to the city, and the evolution of New York City in the latter half of the 20th century.


[Exterior, 2013. Photo: John Hill.]

New York City's Architecture Research Office (ARO) is the project architect for the restoration, accompanied by a small fleet of architects and engineers. Most notable are Walter B. Melvin Architects, the exterior restoration architect, and Arup, the engineers responsible for MEP and fire protection. The latter's role is especially important, given how little space was available for mechanical and fire protection systems—ingenuity with space and technology allowed the systems to follow the mandate of the whole project: The structure and Judd's interventions should appear the same after the three-year restoration as they did before. In this sense, ARO's role would appear to be architectural sleight of hand, and to a certain degree that is true. But considering that for most people the building at 101 Spring Street was a place shrouded by scaffolding (installed in 2002 for safety), experiencing the building and its spaces will be a novel one where art and architecture merge.


[1st Floor, 2013 Photo Credit: Josh White. Image © Judd Foundation. Donald Judd Art © Judd Foundation. Licensed by VAGA, New York.]

Visiting the building, as I was able to do on a recent spring afternoon, one of the first impressions after taking in the crisp restoration of the cast iron is the mottled appearance of the glass, which looks to be anything but intentional. But intentional it is, with new glass replicating the unique visual texture that surrounded Judd when he lived and worked in the spaces. The first floor was initially Judd's studio, but he moved it to the third floor for more privacy. After the building opens to the public in June, the first floor will serve as an events space; a couple floors in the basement—lit by glass blocks in the sidewalk—serve as the Judd Foundation's offices. The first floor is anchored by a couple Judd pieces, a precarious-looking sculpture by Carl Andre, and a roll-top desk that Judd found in the building, restored, and used.


[2nd Floor, 2013 Photo Credit: Josh White. Image © Judd Foundation. Art © Ad Reinhardt. Donald Judd FurnitureTM© Judd Foundation.]

The second floor is the living space, most impressive for the Judd-designed kitchen that tucks itself partly under the stair and a sleeping loft. This floor feels domestic, yet as if it exists synergestically with the art and furnishings that occupy the large open space. The third floor is more museum-like, with art and some drafting instruments on display, but a similar domestic sensation continues on the fifth floor (the fourth floor was still being worked on at the time of my visit), where bedrooms, closets, and sleeping loft anchor the north end of the building, in a similar location to the kitchen downstairs. This floor also houses an enormous Dan Flavin light sculpture running the whole length of the floor, an element that makes a strong argument for uniting art, architecture, and life into one whole.


[2nd Floor, 2013 Photo Credit: Josh White. Image © Judd Foundation. Art © Ad Reinhardt. Donald Judd FurnitureTM© Judd Foundation.]

I have not visited Marfa, Donald Judd's well-known outpost in West Texas, but I'm guessing both places share the characteristic of control. This word (not used in a critical way) colors Judd's precisely machined forms and the importance of their placement within natural and artificial environments. Everything at 101 Spring Street, be it art by him or others or even domestic implements, is carefully positioned, following Judd's use of the building. This lends the space a feeling that is similar to other house-museums, such as much older ones in the city run by Parks and Rec and the Historic House Trust. But where those and other houses may use period furnishings (original and not) to convey a sense of the place and time, 101 Spring Street exhibits the lived-in experiment that Judd made of the building, an important distinction that stresses the importance of thinking about expression and the environment in which it happens.


[3rd Floor, 2013 Photo Credit: Josh White. Art © Larry Bell. Image © Judd Foundation.]


[5th Floor, 2013 Photo Credit: Josh White. Donald Judd Art © Judd Foundation. Licensed by VAGA, New York. Dan Flavin © Stephen Flavin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.]


[5th Floor, 2013 Photo Credit: Josh White. Donald Judd Art © Judd Foundation. Licensed by VAGA, New York. © Claes Oldenburg. © Lucas Samaras. Dan Flavin © Stephen Flavin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Donald Judd FurnitureTM© Judd Foundation.]


[2nd Floor, 2010 Photo Credit: Mauricio Alejo. Judd Foundation Archives. Image © Judd Foundation. Donald Judd FurnitureTM© Judd Foundation.]


[3rd Floor, 2003 Photo Credit: Rainer Judd. Judd Foundation Archives. Image/Art © Judd Foundation. Licensed by VAGA, New York.]


[4th Floor, 2010 Photo Credit: Mauricio Alejo. Judd Foundation Archives. Image © Judd Foundation. Flavin artwork © Stephen Flavin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Donald Judd FurnitureTM© Judd Foundation.]

Museo Amparo

Museo Amparo in Puebla, Mexico, by Enrique Norten/TEN Arquitectos, 2013.

The following text and images are courtesy TEN Arquitectos.

Museo Amparo is located within the historical center of the city of Puebla. The museum is composed of various colonial buildings of great historical and architectural value. The museum holds a permanent collection of 4,800 pre-Hispanic pieces, some given by the INAH (Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia) and others from private collections. There is another permanent collection of baroque art and one of contemporary art, including pieces from notable artists such as Javier Marín, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Vicente Rojo, Manuel Felguérez and Sebastián.

For the rehabilitation and resize of the building, TEN Arquitectos took into account the architectonic modernization of the spaces and of its museographic script. The new design updates the way of exhibiting and walking through the museum’s different collections; by adding a vestibule, we motivate the intercommunication between the collections, but at the same time they can be accessed and enjoyed independently. In the same way, we establish a new way to intercommunicate the museum’s services, so the public and private aspects could be separated and work more efficiently.

The creation of more temporary exhibition spaces helps the museum to stay at the forefront in its objectives of social, educational and cultural services. The project also undertook the modernization of mechanical, structural and media systems. Due to the history of the museum, its age, the different interventions, the constant use, its historical value, and the client ́s interest in preserving this legacy, it is important to renew, improve and determinate the current condition of the various MEP and structural systems. The architectural proposal includes the opportune maintenance of the entire building.

The project strives to benefit the user with the views from the roof of the building, through new terraces and gardens. Therefore, visitors will be motivated to know another aspect of the city of Puebla, showing them the magnificent views of the different domes, towers, churches and natural landscape that haven ́t been exploited previously in any other part of the city.

Photographs are copyright Luis Gordoa, courtesy of TEN Arquitectos.

Perot Museum of Nature and Science

Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, Texas, by Morphosis Architects, 2012.

When looking closely at the buildings of Thom Mayne and Morphosis Architects, it's possible to see simple forms that are then violated through cuts and complicated by the layering of often translucent, metallic skins. A case in point is The Cooper Union's engineering building at 41 Cooper Square, what is basically a rectangular box enlivened by undulating perforated metal panels applied in front of a typical curtain wall; further these panels are sliced to express the atrium within. The new Perot Museum of Nature and Science (yes, that Perot) in downtown Dallas exhibits this same tendency, but to a greater degree given its cubic mass and textured concrete facade.

The museum is located a few blocks south of the Nasher Sculpture Center and the rest of the Dallas Arts District. The east border of the site is defined by the elevated Woodall Rogers Freeway (the freeway is lower west of the Nasher and adjacent blocks and has been decked over to create the Klyde Warren Park); no wonder Mayne propped up the building on a concrete plinth and focused the attention inwards. Access to the entry plaza next to the cube is via the parking lot on the south or a set of stairs from sidewalk level on the site's northeast corner. Part of the plaza is embraced by the concrete walls of the plinth, a contemporary version of St. Peter's Square.

The museum is thus a fundamentally public building – a building that opens up, belongs to and activates the city; ultimately, the public is as integral to the museum as the museum is to the city. -Morphopedia

It shouldn't come as a surprise that the most striking aspect of the cube is visible from the plaza, as if the public space that Mayne created frames his building in its best aspect. From here we see the glass-clad diagonal bar both cutting and protruding from the concrete exterior. This piece covers an escalator; the atrium that houses other parts of the building's vertical circulation is visible in a large cut below the diagonal. Given how the building is predominantly solid, these openings stand out considerably, making it clear how the vertical circulation is an important part of the experience. Mayne actually describes a spatial procession that zooms visitors to the top floor and leads them down through the galleries, an exploded Guggenheim in a concrete cube.

Getting back to Mayne's tendency to violate and complicate simple masses, the Perot Museum is the most readily graspable form of any of his recent buildings. Even with the diagonal and other cuts, it looks like a cube, and that's what it is. But instead of covering it with perforated metal to deny the form, a la 41 Cooper Square, 656 precast concrete panels are applied to give the form some texture. Yet the precast is not merely a facade material; it covers the plinth and the cube, and it extends inside the building to line the atrium space like a natural formation. Therefore the concrete unites the cube, plinth, and plaza; fitting, given that the building is envisioned as an exhibit that teaches as much about science and nature (through sustainable aspects, mainly) as the exhibitions on display.

Photographs are by Aaron Dougherty.

Małopolska Garden of Arts

Małopolska Garden of Arts in Kraków, Poland, by Ingarden & Ewý Architects, 2012.

The following text and images are courtesy of Ingarden & Ewý Architects.

The building of the Małopolska Garden of Arts (MGA) has been realized according to a competition-winning design by Ingarden & Ewy Architects. The program and the initiative of establishing this new cultural institution in Kraków was proposed in the year 2004 by Krzysztof Orzechowski, director of the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre and Janusz Sepioł, at the time the Marshal of the Małopolska Voivodeship. It is no coincidence that the building was built in the vicinity of ul. Karmelicka – a street popular with students and locals alike – opposite the building of the public library, with the aim of ensuring its smooth inclusion into the “bloodstream” of the city. The building of MGA introduced a new spatial order to the old backyards and ruined buildings in Rajska and Szujskiego streets in Kraków. The starting point was a multifunctional hall, which was entered into the outline of the old, 19th-century horse-riding arena, used in the last years of its history as workshop and storage space for the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Kraków.

The Małopolska Garden of Arts is a cross between two institutions: the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre and the Malopolska Voivodeship Library. The wing on Szujskiego Street holds a modern art and media library, with multimedia books and music, while the section standing on ul. Rajska has been developed by the theater, and is equipped with a multifunctional events hall. The new hall – operating as a studio theater, conference room, concert hall, and venue for banquets and exhibitions – holds retractable stages for 300 people. State-of-the-art stage technology is present overhead: fixed on hoists and cranes to the steel ceiling girders. This allows dramas and concerts to be performed, and exhibitions, film screenings, symposiums, conferences, art auctions, fashion shows, and many more events to be held. Altogether, the space of about 4,300 s.m. (46,285 s.f.) houses a theater together with a cozy cinema with 98 seats, a café, and premises for the organization of educational, art-related activities.

Honing the form, the architects focused on interaction with the future recipients, which is why the entire spatial form of the symbolic, openwork roofing over the garden – though not functioning as an actual roof – is there to transport the gateway from the stage out onto the street. In this way, the building delicately nudges passersby with the skillful manipulation of the form, already at first glance giving the onlooker the impression of going beyond the borders of a garden, where culture is grown in evenly planted rows. Further proof of the sophisticated play with the space is the garden itself. Imitating flower beds, the equal bands with low greens are a metaphor of a garden; as much as the architects could afford here.

Architect Krzysztof Ingarden (collaborating with Jacek Ewý), claims that the form of the building is a contextual game between “mimesis and the abstraction.” The building is by no means a simulacrum of the context, but rather draws inspiration from the code of contextual forms by making references to the geometry of the roofs and tissue of the neighboring structures, applied to the abstract geometries of the façades. The building perfectly fits the scale of its environment by maintaining the lines of the roof and divisions of the façades of the neighboring buildings. The final impact is the result of the designers’ sensitivity to signals coming from the environment. For example, the opening in the perforated roof of the garden was formed especially for the maple tree that grows there. In this place, the cultural life of Kraków’s young artistic set will blossom under a shared roof. Modern ballet, contemporary theater, aural and visual arts, concerts, and any other artistic pursuit will find their home here.

Parrish Art Museum

Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York, by Herzog & de Meuron, 2012.

One month after its November 2012 opening I drove out to Long Island to visit the Parrish Art Museum, also checking out the Houses at Sagaponac. Much of the modern architecture in the Hamptons, like the Houses at Sagaponac, is fairly hidden as residential enclaves or beach houses. On the other hand it's hard to miss the Parrish Art Museum, which overlooks the Montauk Highway, the area's main east-west thoroughfare. The institution was previously housed in a much smaller space in nearby Southampton, but at 615-feet (187 meters) long, the new building gives the museum a substantial presence, even as its fairly conservative form is inspired by the area's vernacular architecture.

The Parrish Art Museum is designed by Herzog & de Meuron, with local architect Douglas Moyer. The completed building was not their first approved scheme for the building. Initially they broke each gallery into a separate pavilion, loosely assembling them in a tight cluster on the large site. But a large budget and inadequate fundraising pointed to either shelving the project or paring it down. The latter happened when partner-in-charge Ascan Mergenthaler sketched what became the final design: a long building with all of the galleries and other functions under a twin-gable profile. Everything else, it could be argued, is in the details, and the Parrish offers much to be appreciated in this regard.

An ordered sequence of post, beam and truss defines the unifying backbone of the building. Its materialization is a direct expression of readily accessible building materials and local construction methods. -Herzog & de Meuron

By paring down the building to a simple linear volume, the project brings four main architectural elements to the fore: floor, wall, structure, and roof. In order, these elements can be described as a thin plinth upon which the building sits; a rough concrete enclosure that is smoothed at the benches where people interact with the building; exposed steel and wood diagonals that give a strong rhythm to the long building; and a lightweight yet large cover that is punctuated by skylights in the galleries. Inside, the experience is defined by all of these elements but the concrete walls, which are covered in the same white drywall that lines the central, double-loaded corridor. The white walls work with the wood, steel, and concrete to create spaces inspired by artists' studios, most apparent through the gable form and abundance of natural light in the galleries.

The long building is split roughly into thirds, from west to east: entrance (with gift shop, cafe, auditorium, restrooms, and terrace), galleries, and administration. This means that even though the central corridor appears very long, the full length of the building is only really grasped from within when under the eaves, where the aforementioned benches turn these circulation routes into places of rest. They also highlight the two sides of the site, the large field of grass fronting the building and the parking area at the rear. Like the building, this splitting of the site into three (field, building, parking) gives the overall project its structure and strong presence off the Montauk Highway—the building is at a slight angle to the road, so its length is accentuated, but so are its gable forms. The parking, it should be noted, is not an afterthought. With landscape architect Reed Hilderbrand, the parking is a beautiful and responsible design, incorporating bioswales that reduce stormwater runoff while echoing the line of the building. Traversing the bridges over these swales is the first direct experience with the project, clearly illustrating the consideration put into the whole.

Écomusée du pays de Rennes

Écomusée du Pays de Rennes in Rennes, France, by Guinée*Potin, 2010.

One of the projects included in the book reviewed this week, Architecture: From Commission to Construction, is the Écomusée du Pays de Rennes, designed by Nantes-based architects Guinée*Potin from a 2006 international competition. The book's author Jennifer Hudson describes the broader écomusée as "a new idea for the holistic interpretation of cultural customs and traditions, which allows communities to preserve, interpret and manage their heritage for a sustainable development." At Rennes, the focus is on five centuries of agriculture and rural life in Brittany in northwest France.

For a decade or so the museum had experienced steadily increasing attendance, but after the donation of some ancient vernacular furniture in 2000 it became clear that the growth also had to happen physically. Guinée*Potin's competition-winning design reuses a 1990s gable building for offices and other service functions. In front of it they extended the gable form and placed inside it a store for the museum. Besides this volume is the entrance, which is placed under an organic wood form lifted on tree trunks; inside are more offices. The last and largest piece is the double-height exhibition space to the west of the entry.

Uniting most of the exterior are chestnut shingles whose articulation was inspired by, in Hudson's words, "the exteriors of local vernacular architecture and the tiles and discs of Paco Rabanne's iconic haute-couture 1960s dresses." This fashionable exterior is prominent across the parking lot on the south side of the building, and is accompanied by some pebble-like openings in the concrete base. On the north side, the exhibition space's serrated wall includes rectangular windows that face the cherry orchard. Wood is prevalent throughout the interior, and the form above the entry, covered in wood like the hull of a ship, is particularly important for orienting one inside the building.

Documentation of the project in Hudson's book focuses on the articulation of the forms through computer modeling after the basic plan was determined; the competition-winning drawings; full-scale mock-ups and drawings of the chestnut cladding; and details of construction like the sedum roof over the exhibition space. Not surprisingly, a lot of emphasis was given the building's wrapping and the intersection of forms that combine with the chestnut to give the museum its expression. I agree with Hudson that "Guinée*Potin's organic modern building is a welcome relief from the normal language of farm museums, which all too often falls into rural parody."