Wednesday, August 25, 2010

clyfford still museum: the final design [video]

description from the museum's website:

The Museum is conceived as a solid, a mass of concrete, deriving its presence from the earth—a single construction that is opened up by natural light and that itself becomes the source of light for the art within. The museum structure will exist, simply and elegantly, to make room for the voice of a single artist.

The Still Museum’s final design envisions a two-story 28,500 square foot structure made of highly textured and resurfaced concrete that will modify light on both the exterior and interior of the Museum. The landscaped forecourt will serve both as a place of refuge and repose, transitioning from the urban neighborhood to the experience of viewing Still’s art within the Museum. A cantilevered canopy of concrete will lead visitors into the first-floor lobby, and glass walls will allow visitors to see into the conservation studio and collection storage. An open corridor will include educational materials, and its two-story expanse will provide views from below of the second-floor galleries and views from above into the library and study areas on the first floor. The Museum’s open design embodies the founding principle of the institution, the revealing to the public of this once-private and very personal collection.

A beautifully-crafted wooden staircase will lead visitors to the second floor, which consists of a series of eleven distinct galleries, having varying ceiling heights and proportions designed for the optimal display of the different elements of the Still collections. The galleries, totaling approximately 10,000 square feet, will feature changing exhibits of work from throughout Clyfford Still’s career and will enable visitors to progress chronologically through Still’s works. One of the singular features of the Museum will be its daylight system that includes diffusing skylights and motorized shades situated above a custom-formed, surprisingly delicate concrete tracery ceiling that almost disappears in the scattered light. The intensity of each gallery's light will vary with changes in daylight, and electric lighting will further enhance curatorial flexibility to modify the tonalities in each exhibition space. The Museum is currently expected to open in the fall of 2011.

this will take more study, but our first impression [mostly questions]:

1] The approach is one of the best things going for the design if the wild flower meadow "forecourt" stays intact through the design process. a nice entry to a long expanse of glass, beneath the cantilevered upper level.

2] what is with the monster trees in the "forecourt"? every denver-ite knows that trees in this city take 200 years to get that tall. there is simply no water...maybe they will transplant full grown maples or oaks to the site...

3] Exteriors:
the textured concrete looks promising with the subtle random vertical shadow pattern, but how does this translate to the interior? Also-what is the significance of choosing this method of concrete and its aesthetic? What is the significance to Clyfford Still/Denver/museum-goers? is it just to look "cool" or does it have a deeper meaning to place and culture? and please don't tell me it is to imitate the nearby mountains [libeskind...argh!]. if we want to experience mountain textures and forms, making a 30 minute drive would allow you to experience the real thing.

4] Interiors:
oh we get it now! the random vertical wood panelling references the exterior concrete texture [kind of...sort of...]. the animation doesn't do any favors to the interior experience, but the main level is definitely non-hierarchical in organization [also a theme in adjaye's mcart denver]. the entrance is very un-monumental [no atrium, no grand staircase, etc.] but maybe that is okay. not sure though...the ambiance of the random lighting layout and glowing stairwell is another play of subtlety, but it doesn't make for a public space you want to linger in--more like a interstitial space to grab tickets and be herded through the galleries. libeskind's denver art museum has the great atrium that while even though induces vertigo, at least makes you feel something special about the place spatially.

5] Gallery Ceilings:
not sure what that perforated sunscreen/sunshade is or how it gets manufactured / built, but it looks like it has potential. a bit of a rip-off from renzo piano, but if you are going to plagiarize, do it from the best [which renzo is the master of daylight manipulation]. from the description above, it sounds like GFRC [Glass Fibre Reinforced Concrete] to us.

6] Animation/presentation:
this may be perceived as a minor issue, but does it bother anyone else that there are no shadows or reflections on the floor for the people in the animations? because it is driving us absolutely mad! very distracting and also a little creepy to not have the kind of depth that is created by those little details [pay attention young architecture students]. the autumn setting is very nice and sets a good mood, but we are suckers since autumn is our favorite season in denver.

all in all, we are eagerly awaiting the completion, and one cannot truly judge a work without being inside it, around it, immersed in it... while this critique may be somewhat cynical, it is merely curious and has anxious questions to the incomplete. follow the construction progress on the museum's website here:


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