A look at contemporary museum architecture – Buffalo Rising

Albright-Knox’s current expansion plans are expected to be big, loud and noisy, and designed by the world-renowned OMA (Office of Municipal Architecture) company. This company has a past in which the status quo was big, loud and noisy, particularly exemplified by lead architect, Pritzker Prize winner Rem Koolhaas. The company’s designs have been praised for decades, especially in the famous and easily recognizable CCTV headquarters, Seattle Public Library, Guggenheim Las Vegas, Prada New York and Casa da Musica Just to name a few. Rem Koolhaas himself is not designing the project, but rather his protégé, Shohei Shigematsu, who is the senior partner in OMA’s New York office. He himself has a history in the design of cultural sites such as the Musée national des beaux-arts de Québec and the Faena Arts Center in Miami, but also in the exploration of the urban environment, especially in the case of the designs of a new civic center in Bogota, an urban water strategy for the Jersey Shore, and a innovative food hub for the city of Louisville, Kentucky. He may not be as loud or as loud as Rem Koolhaas, but he is still a respected practitioner of civic design in the United States and throughout the Western Hemisphere. The basic premise of AK’s expansion was revealed in June, but criticism has come over its planned use of space. So instead of just explaining why there are problems, there should be examples of museum architecture built over the past twenty years with particular credibility given to expansion designs of older buildings.

Kunsthaus Graz, designed by Peter Cook and Colin Fournier

This unique black protrusion emanating from downtown Graz in Austria was designed by Peter Cook and Colin Fournier from Great Britain; today he is affectionately known as the “Friendly Alien”, a playful remark on the building’s remarkably futuristic and organic form, though totally unconventional. This neo-futuristic extension to a neoclassical building is perfect for the easily modifiable black box that the extension has to be. It’s almost as if space is a dark, ominous cloud that changes depending on the environmental needs of the museum and the art it houses. It includes three galleries, offices, meeting spaces, a media art lab, reading and media lounge, souvenir shop, café, and observation deck. Oh, and the front is “smart” where it can be programmed to display information and interact with users.

Vulcania European Volcanism Center, designed by Hans hollein

This museum, considered the last postmodern work, was opened in 2002 to fanfare for its bold shape and volcano-shaped entrance. The building is submerged and shows a single cone, clad in slabs of solidified concrete-like lava and a golden interior that sheds light into the unraveling chasm. In fact, he was inspired in part by Jules Verne Journey to the Center of the Earth and that of Dante Hell. He mimicked the natural setting of the site in Auvergne, France, perhaps at the level of the farce, but on purpose. The Pritzker Prize-winning architect died in 2014, this museum being one of his most memorable pieces.

PasquArt Center, Addition designed by Diener & Diener

By far the most applicable to the case of the Albright Knox, the PasquArt Center, a gallery of modern and contemporary art in Switzerland, was founded in 1990 in a former hospital. This
built its east wing in 1999. This addition is a lesson in context if ever there is one. Although the differences are obvious, in materials and style, the building still seems unchanging. Roofs appear at similar heights, floors and their slabs are intertwined, and the motif of the addition is omnipresent from the entrance to his courtyard to his new gallery space. It is in this case that the old neoclassical style can bridge the gap with its contemporary counterpart to both support and connect each other’s fashion.

Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (mumok), designed by Ortner & Ortner

Another context lesson, this one can be harder to spot. Located in a Baroque courtyard in the Museumsquartier in Vienna, Austria. This contemporary art museum is entirely
new, but interacts masterfully with its urban environment. It was oriented to greet visitors in the simplest and most direct manner. In addition, the dark stone facade, although unlike its immediate Baroque neighbors, is well suited to the industrial district which is just across the courtyard walls. The building is still classical in the sense that it is a complete and proportional form, which is a principle of postmodern thought, and which corresponds to the aggressively classical flourishes of Baroque architecture. In doing this, he also breaks up the space well; the building creates diversity in its extremely unique environment.

Milwaukee Art Museum – Quadracci Pavilion, designed by Santiago Calatrava

The basic belief of this structure is to add not to the museum, but to the context of the neighborhood. Connected to another beautiful structure, Eero Saarinen’s War Memorial Center, it provides a respectful contrast to a darker, heavier building such as Saarinen’s, while connecting downtown to the waterfront as if it represented a ship heading for Lake Michigan. In the way it shows its light and airy qualities, it can be compared to a postmodern Gothic cathedral. He also supports a beautiful work of art in his Burke Brise Soleil, a set of wings that “flap” at different times of the day; it is a remarkable sight to see. The addition is stunning from all angles and a landmark in the architect’s large collection of works.

Victoria and Albert Museum, Addition designed by Amanda Levete

In the current plan unveiled by OMA-NYC, the courtyard of the 1962 addition by Gordon Bunshaft is completely subsumed by a new entrance and gallery space. The demolition of a key part of this remarkable building raised a few eyes. To see how a courtyard can be a perfect place for expansion, Amanda Levete’s new addition to the Victoria and Albert Museum shows it beautifully. The courtyard was to be the new entrance to the museum, and instead of destroying it, the architect increased the capacity of the museum and simplified the flow of the gallery. Today, the world famous Design and Decorative Arts Museum has a more functional and seamless addition without altering the original composition of the main building. This is done by digging under the courtyard and letting sunlight pass through narrow slits that also serve as works of art for the many visitors to the museum.

To see other expansion plans, in order to compare them to what is expected at the Albright-Knox, and the future Gundlach, gallery, here is a list:

Modern Art Museum – Diller Scofidio & Renfro and Gensler

Philadelphia Museum of Art – Frank Gehry (for anyone who wants an underground expansion)

Royal Academy of Arts, London – David Chipperfield

American Museum of Natural History – Studio Gang

Frick Collection – Selldorf Architects

Bass Museum (second phase) – Arata Isozaki

Hood Museum – Tod Williams Billie Tsien

Tate St. Ives Cornwall – Jamie Forbert Architects

New museums:

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa – Heatherwick Studios

Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art – WHY (new location for the museum)

Galeries Lafayette Corporate Foundation – OMA

Other museums designed over the past twenty years that could not be covered in this article:

Rosenthal Contemporary Art Center – Zaha Hadid

Paper Art Museum – Shigeru ban

Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art – Tadao Ando

Great Court of British Museum – Foster and Partners (addition)

Schlauger, Laurenz Foundation – Herzog and De Meuron

Imperial War Museum North – Daniel Libeskind

Toledo Art Museum– SANAA

Het Valkhof Museum – Van Berkel and Bos (now A studio)

Horyuji Treasures Gallery – Taniguchi and associates

Liner Museum – Gigon / Guyer

Palmach History Museum – Zvi Hecker

American Folk Art Museum – Tod Williams Billie Tsien

Jewish museum in Berlin – Daniel Libeskind

Hirishige Ando Museum – Kengo Kuma

Nasher Sculpture Center – Renzo Piano

Altamira Museum – Juan Navarro Baldeweg

River and Rowing Museum – David Chipperfield

Castellon Fine Arts Museum – Mansilla and Tunon

Serralves Contemporary Art Museum – Allvaro Siza

Van Abbe Museum – Abel Cahen (addition)

Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum – Steven holl

modern Art Museum – Yoshio Taniguchi (old addition)

Of course, there are more museums worth noting, like the Guggenheim Helsinki, Museum of Islamic Art – Doha, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Louvre Lens, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Chicago Art Institute (add), Maritime Museum – Abu Dhabi, Portland Japanese Garden Cultural Center, which were not on this list, but if you like Really a newly built museum (in the last 20 years) or a newly expanded museum not on this list, please suggest it in the comments below. And if there was a museum on this list that you really liked, please post it in the comments as well.


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