Term Paper: Museum Architecture

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Museum Architecture

The New Museum of Contemporary Art is located in New York City, and was designed by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA in Tokyo. The seven-story building is one of its kind in terms of being the first ever art museum ever built in downtown Manhattan. "The New Museum" title indeed fits not only the building, but also its purpose and connections with its surroundings, New York City, and its citizens. The art entailed in the architecture of the building itself reflects its mission, attitude, and displays within the walls of the building. The New Museum of Contemporary Art is representative of the society in which it exists, as well as being a product that incorporates elements of the past in an innovative way to link the present with the future of contemporary art.

The New Museum and History

Architecture is an art form that reflects a number of elements from the society in which it functions. Buildings are to blend not only with the buildings around them, but also with the landscape and environment. These elements are to contribute to the purpose of the building itself, with the interior of buildings designed to substantiate the impression from the outside. Interior lighting and spatial elements are then also to contribute to the general principles of architecture, relating this with the building itself.

Art museums are public buildings, whose purpose are to house representative works of the society that created it. As such, the buildings themselves also represent the principles of architecture and art of the time and space within which they function. In this way, they play an important role in not only building upon the principles of the past while reserving them, but also in innovating new systems and principles by which to connect to the future.

In terms of history, the New Museum has always focused upon representing the current society in which it exists by presenting the works of contemporary artists since the 1970's. As such, the museum connects with the principles upon which contemporary artists build to create their concepts by continuously exhibiting the innovative works of the time. In terms of architecture, the original New Museum was housed in the Fine Arts building in New York, with exhibits held off-premise. As the Museum grew, it later moved into the Graduate Center of the New School for Social Research, where it expanded its setting to both offices and exhibit space. This links the Museum with already existing Museum spaces within the city and its history. As mentioned above, the New Museum building is the first of its kind in Manhattan. The museum therefore began its history by being integrated into the existing buildings during its beginning years. The new building expands the Museum's history to link with its contemporary and future nature.

Visitors

The exterior of the museum is the first element that the visitor is presented with when visiting the museum. It is striking in terms of its surrounding environment, rising 174 feet above street level. It is therefore rather striking in terms of size, among buildings that are generally small and midsized on the rest of the street. When approaching the building, visitors will therefore be presented with what appears to be a stack of seven rectangular boxes.

This exterior design serves both an aesthetic and a practical purpose. In terms of the aesthetic, the building is designed in an innovative and unusual style, reflecting its mission as a space for the most contemporary and innovative of art forms. In practical terms, the box-design of the building serves to maximize the interior space for art exhibitions. This connects well with the design of New York city itself, further identifying the building as a representation of its environment. New York is a very urban area, with narrow, high buildings, often sacrificing space for the sake of new buildings. The New Museum, on the other hand, is designed to suit its environment, but also its purpose; creating wide interior spaces to house its exhibitions.

When entering the building, visitors are then presented with open internal spaces, with every level at a different height and characteristics. The stacked box approach also allowed the architects to omit any columns from the interior, thus further opening the interior space for exhibitions. An aluminum mesh was chosen as coating, providing the museum with an interesting, luminous, and fluid appearance. This represents the ever-changing nature of the art promoted by the museum.

The architects added fifteen feet of clear plate glass to the front of the building to provide passers-by and visitors with a view of the interior. The glass stretches over the entire building, including not only the public entrance, but also the loading area of the museum. In this way visitors are presented with the dynamic flow of both visitors and art works into and out of the museum, once again representing the dynamic nature of New York art and environment. The glass then acts as a membrane that separates the external world from the interior, while at the same time making the interior and its functions available to visitors.

The interior is also designed to provide the building with a sense not only of openness, but also of beauty that emerges from rough elements such as ducts, sprinklers, and fireproofing. This creates the sense of openness both in terms of space and in terms of approach. The ideal is that visitors be presented with an honest approach to art and culture. As contemporary art is free to expose every element of life, regardless of form or subject matter, the building also exposes itself, not hiding a single element of itself. In this way, the interior of the building and the art it houses provides for the visitor an integrated unit.

When entering the building, the visitor moves from gray concrete pavement to gray concrete flooring in the reception hall. Among other elements, this space houses the New Museum Store, and the New Food cafe. A stairway leads to the lower level also containing the Theater, while the upper levels can be accessed by elevator. A dropped screen of metal mesh provides a filter for the exposed functions of the ceiling, whit florescent lighting provides illumination to the floors below. The Joan and Charles Gallery is separated from the rest by a glass wall, with daylight filtering in from the outside.

When entering the lobby, visitors have a choice of several paths that move upwards and downwards towards the various functions and floors in the interior. On the lower level for example, visitors can enter the Peter Jay Sharp Theater, which includes 182 seats. The restrooms are also on this floor, and feature Bisazza mosaic that forms cherry blossom patterns. The upper level floors are also accessible via the staircases or elevators, where the atmosphere ranges according to the artworks displayed.

Daylight is used in order to provide the gallery with neutral spaces where any variety of art can be displayed and atmosphere created via accessories rather than architecture. The museum uses this element creatively by allowing visitors to experience art differently at different times of the day or in different spaces on different days.

In this, the second to eighth floors of the New Museum provides the visitor with an experience that is paralleled by view other buildings in Manhattan, and certainly with a unique perspective on the artworks displayed within its walls. Indeed, the Museum's function is not only to house art, but also to provide its community with educational and other opportunities. The Pauline and Constantine Karpidas Education Center for example can be found on the fifth floor of the Museum. On the eighth floor, the visitor will find the Toby Devan Lewis Sky Room, where events and special programs can be presented.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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